Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Told in Pictures – Dan Smith’s Old Testament

June 23, 1934
“The only man to whom the gift was given to draw accurately a scene merely glimpsed was Dan Smith, who came later upon the World to enormously raise the prestige and status of the downtrodden but patient toilers, not only by his piety and sobriety, the same being the son of a parson, but by his marvelous technique. He did not need to make sketches, this wizard of the pen and brush, one swift squint at the scene was enough. He is going strong still, but I wonder that our envy did not poison him in early life!”
    — Walt McDougall in This is the Life, 1926

DAN SMITH was born in Greenland, of Danish parentage, in 1865, and moved to America while still a boy. He returned to Copenhagen to train at the Public arts Institute when he was 14. Back in America again he took further instruction at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts. He joined Frank Leslie’s concern about 1890 and contributed artistic reportage of the Indian situation at Wounded Knee and drew cowboy subjects in New Mexico and the Southwest.

Frank Leslie's Weekly 1893
Smith was well known as a painter of animals and beginning in 1897 worked as a war artist for Hearst in Cuba during the Spanish-American war. His illustrative work appeared in the humor magazine Judge, Frank Leslie’s Magazine and The Metropolitan. Smith ended up doing marvelous color pages and pen-and-ink illustrations for the World Magazine Section for twenty years. One of his original Magazine Section illustrations is HERE.

July 15, 1933
July 22, 1953
In 1933 Smith began his last work, a muscular and romantic retelling of Old Testament stories in weekly comic strip format. The text was adapted from the King James Version of the Bible. Smith may have been a pious man but he didn’t shy away from the violent and sexual aspects of the stories. Smith was one of the few comic strip artists to use the high illustrative style also in use at the time by Hal Foster and Alex Raymond.

February 24, 1934
The Bible was perfect food for an illustrator’s imagination with its tales of wars, plague, pestilence, horror and the supernatural. Smith’s image of a David eyeing a naked Bathsheba in her bath was quite daring. He even hinted at a nipple. Hal Foster honestly pictured Tarzan naked in his early comic strips so it was not without precedent. His extensive use of widescreen panels looked forward to the origins of CinemaScope.

‘Tarzan of the Apes. A Romance of the Jungle.’ by Hal Foster, 1929
Dan Smith died on December 10, 1934, aged 69. He was working on The Story of Moses when he died and the last strip I found was dated February 9, 1935, marked “To be continued.”

A Whitmanesque portrait for
 the Syracuse Journal in 1910

July 1, 1933

June 9, 1934

Jul 7, 1934
January 26, 1935
June 20, 1934


The Life of Sampson Strong Man of the Bible, Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, Saturday, March 11, 1933

The Story of Esther Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, Apr 29, 1933

The Story of Joseph Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, Jul 8, 1933

The Story of Ruth Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, Sep 30, 1933

The Story of David Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, Nov 4, 1933

The Story of Jezebel Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, Apr 21, 1934

The Story of Solomon Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, Mar 17, 1934

The Story of Salome Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, Jun 2, 1934

The Story of Elijah Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, Jul 7, 1934

The Story of Jael Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, Aug 4, 1934

The Story of Abraham Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, Sep 8, 1934

The Story of Cain Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, Nov 3, 1934

The Story of the Holy Child Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, Dec 8 to 29, 1934

The Story of Moses Told in Pictures by Dan Smith, beginning Jan 12, 1935, last strip appears to be dated Feb 9, 1935, marked “To be continued.”

Two panels from The Story of Abraham
*Biographical source: Kansas Historical Quarterly, Volume XIX, 1951, pp. 235-237. New York’s Frick art Reference Library has an Artist’s file containing reproductions and photographs of Smith’s Western art. A variety of Smith’s Magazine Section illustrations in color can be found at Stripper’s Guide HERE. Yesterday’s Papers previous post about Dan Smith HERE. Special thanks to Michel Kempeneers.



  1. Dan Smith is amazing and completely new to me. Thanks for putting it all this together.

  2. I have to concur. Thank you very much for this. I'm afraid I have not understood precisely where all this appeared, though. Were those sections syndicated or published only in a specific magazine/sunday section ?

  3. The comic strips were syndicated by King Features and published weekly, Saturday's, in the daily newspaper.