Sebastian Smee, art critic of The Boston Globe, today was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.
The award represents the third time in the past decade that a Globe critic has been singled out for the prestigious honor. Arts writer and photography critic Mark Feeney won the prize three years ago, and former chief book critic Gail Caldwell won in 2001.
A 38-year-old native of Australia who now lives in Somerville, Smee came to the Globe in 2008 after four years as the national art critic for The Australian, a Sydney-based newspaper. He was a finalist for a Pulitzer two years ago.
"My reaction is one of just total surprise and, obviously, pleasure,'' Smee said in an interview today. "I just feel so lucky to be at the Globe. I feel so fortunate the Globe saw fit to employ this guy that no one had heard of from Australia.''
Globe editor Martin Baron called Smee "incredibly deserving of this honor.''
"His criticism is so inviting, so approachable, and so funny, often,'' Baron said. "It's a delight to read. The thing about him is that he has this broad expertise, this deep expertise, but he never really smothers readers in all that he knows. To read him is to dine off a tasting menu, with his knowledge and his insights delivered in digestible portions, and by the end you've had quite a feast.''
Smee is the author of "Side by Side: Picasso v. Matisse,'' a book on the relationship between Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Before he began writing art criticism for The Australian in 2004, Smee lived in Britain, where he wrote for The Art Newspaper, then began freelancing for The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Spectator, and The Financial Times. From 2002 to 2004, he was an art critic for The Daily Telegraph.
Smee's day began with the opening of presents for his daughter, Leila, who turned four today. He and his wife, Joanne Sadler, a professional violinist and teacher, also have a six-year-old son, Tom.
Smee's award is the 21st Pulitzer the Globe has won, and the sixth in the past decade. In addition to the three awards for criticism, the newspaper also won Pulitzers in 2007 for national reporting, in 2005 for explanatory reporting, and in 2003 for public service.