Violin and componets, varnished wood, made by Kitty Denereaz Smith, Chatswood, New South Wales, Australia, 1964
Kitty Smith made this violin at her home in Chatswood.
Kitty Smith (1912-2005) grew up in an environment of violin making and playing; she studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and her father was Arthur Edward Smith MBE (1880-1976), Australia's best known and most respected violin maker. In her younger years Kitty spent much of her spare time in her father's workshop, and in 1933 she made her first violin, modelled on the 'Maurin' Stradivarius of 1718. She soon made the decision to pursue violin making rather than playing, as a career.
In 1938 she went to Rabaul, New Guinea to marry. It was there that she made her first viola. Upon returning to Australia in 1941 she worked in her father's business in Sydney, repairing violins, making strings during the war, and working on her own instruments at home when time permitted. AE Smith & Co was Australia's leading violin house until it closed in 1972; through her work there Kitty had the opportunity to examine and repair superb Cremonese instruments belonging to the leading soloists of the day such as Fritz Kreisler, Yehudi Menuhin and Isaac Stern. Kitty Smith continued to make violins into her 80s.
The Museum's instruments were made in Sydney between 1955 and 1962. As a working woman with family responsibilities, Kitty Smith's output was steady but not prolific, averaging one instrument a year, totalling some 55 violins, five or six violas and five cellos. Her instruments are labelled Kitsmith, a signature she adopted early in her career as it could be interpreted as either male or female - an important consideration in such a male dominated profession. Like her father, Kitty Smith has always used European timbers: maple for the back, ribs and neck and head and Swiss or Italian pine for the belly. Although she generally used Cremonese instruments as her models, each of her instruments is individual and the result of experimentation and research. For instance, Kitty and her father experimented with varnishes and evolved their own formulae.
Curator of Music, 1994.
The vendor, Dr Frank Chapman purchased the instrument from Kitty Smith in about 1984.