Mortimer Smith (1840-1899) was born in Jamestown, New York, and educated in Oberlin and Sandusky, Ohio, but he learned art at the knee of his father, Sheldon, an architect and teacher. Sheldon opened an art school in Sandusky which shared a building with the Cosmopolitan Gallery of Art; the teenaged Mortimer would have been able to see European and American works of art on display there. By 1858, Mortimer was working with his father’s flourishing architectural business in Detroit, and later he received his own commissions to design buildings. Although he gained success as a painter he never gave up architecture, and his obituary cited his fame as both artist and architect. His paintings were exhibited at the Michigan State Fair as well as in galleries in the Detroit area and New York.