Smith was born on St. Paul Street, Baltimore. He trained initially as an engineer but later taught himself to paint in watercolors. He traveled extensively, producing watercolors which were reproduced in deluxe "travel books," such as "Gondola Days" (1897) and "The Venice of To-Day" (1897) as well as various magazines. He was also the author of many popular books.
The artist regarded this view of the Grand Canal showing the 17th-century church, Santa Maria della Salute, as one of his masterpieces.