Born in Buxton, Maine, 7 August 1801, the artist was probably named after the Smith family's physician, Dr. Royal Brewster. As the eleventh of fourteen children of John McCurdy and Elizabeth McLellan Smith, Royall successfully survived a childhood of limited financial means and some illness to become a successful artisan.
Between 1830 and 1837, Royall Brewster Smith executed some three dozen portraits of residents of southern Maine. As an itinerant, he painted subjects from such towns as Limington, Gorham, and Saco, all located within twenty-five miles of each other. Many of these sitters were from related families, some of them connected to Smith's own. There is no indication that Smith ever received formal training. Generally his works are three-quarter, half-length views on simple but brightly colored backgrounds. The careful lettering of inscriptions on his paintings suggest that Smith may have worked as a sign painter as well as an artist.
In 1840 he married Roxana Gowen in the town of Gorham. By 1843 the couple had moved to Bangor, where Smith worked as a carpenter and painter until his death in December 1855. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
Kern, Arthur, and Sybil Kern. "Painted by Royall B. Smith." The Clarion 13 (Spring 1988): 48-55.
Chotner, Deborah, with contributions by Julie Aronson, Sarah D. Cash, and Laurie Weitzenkorn. American Naive Paintings. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 361.