Skip to Content
Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

© Estate of David Smith/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY,
American, 1906 - 1965
Two Circle Sentinel
Stainless steel

86 x 37 1/4 x 15 3/4 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase funded by the Brown Foundation Accessions Endowment Fund in memory of Alice Pratt Brown

Arts of North America

David Smith devoted his career to the exploration of sculptural form through the medium of steel. He admired the material not only for its durability and industrial strength, but also for the beauty of its reflective surface and its responsiveness to burnishing.

Two Circle Sentinel exhibits the mastery and delicacy Smith brought to his later steel constructions. The image of the sentinel, or watcher, was a theme that fascinated Smith. He made his first Sentinel sculpture in 1956, and by the end of that decade he had created five works in the first series. In 1961 he produced four additional Sentinel sculptures, all of which are characterized by flat planes of highly burnished stainless steel. With these works Smith stripped away the volumetric qualities of sculpture and instead presented the figure as an aggressively two-dimensional presence in space. The first of the 1961 series, Two Circle Sentinel is the closest to human scale of those four. The open circle can be read as an eye, and the lower disc evokes the curve of a classic hip-shot pose. Additional elements welded to the main body of the figure capture light and shadow.