The Main Garden is the largest open space on the campus. A number of historic structures surround this garden area: to your left is the “Bell Gateway,” leading to Smith’s personal art studio and original gallery. Directly in front of you is Smith’s own house and residential area, which are connected to a second studio and a small outdoor patio.
Jules André Smith was born in 1880 to American parents in Hong Kong, raised in New York and Connecticut, and educated at Cornell University. Smith worked for several years as a draftsman and architect before embracing the fine arts as his calling. He quickly found success in his new field: in 1915, he was awarded a gold medal for etching at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.
Smith’s work rose to international prominence during World War I, when he led seven artists who were chosen to capture scenes of encampment and battle with the U.S. military forces in France. Their collected works, featured in a 1919 exhibit in Washington, D.C., helped shape popular images of the heroic American soldier in the Great War.
Upon his return from Europe, Smith settled in Stony Creek, Connecticut, to work as an artist, excelling in sculpture, painting, and theater set design. In the years after the war, Smith suffered from serious illness due to a service injury which led to his leg being amputated in 1924. Smith described himself as having a new outlook after his recuperation from this surgery, in spirit and body, as he “rose from the dead with fresh determination and especially with a clear reevaluation of time and freedom.” He was rejuvenated, and began a “marked departure in his technique as well as the subject matter of his etchings,” moving from realistic scenes to modern surrealist expressions. At Stony Creek, Smith led a summer studio and art school by the name of “Marsh House” in a building that resembled the one he later erected at Maitland.