Born in 1929, Arthur Hall Smith grew up in Norfolk, Virginia. He received his first drawing instruction at an early age from his father, who was a naval architect. He studied at Illinois Wesleyan University, where he obtained a BFA. He received a Fulbright Fellowship upon graduation and went to Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Ecole du Louvre, and the Institute d'Art et Archeologie. While in Paris, he also studied privately with Stanley William Hayter. He did graduate study at the University of Washington and studied with Mark Tobey. Some of his commissions include the Centennial Murals at the Memorial Center at Illinois Wesleyan University and the Mural of Mammals in World Art in the Mammal Hall of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. He served in Korea and later took a teaching post at George Washington University. In 1961, he had a ten year retrospective at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Arthur Hall Smith said that his "goal in drawings is to achieve an equivalence between the rhythm of the line and the poetry of the subject. In painting, to create a radiance through the interrelation of planes over the whole painted surface." This split in his goals between drawings and paintings is also reflected in Smith's work. He has two categories of work, his careful, and more classical drawings, and his abstract paintings. The painting, In the Truckee Basin fits into the second category, abstract painting. The abstraction is based in nature; it is possible to pick out the sky region, the ground, and the water. The dam itself seems to reappear as a series of vertical marks, serving as a foil to the preponderance of horizontals. The horizontal planes resemble geological strata, or pieces of a patchwork crazy quilt. They also look like irrigated fields as seen from above. This is appropriate, as the Truckee River provides irrigation for the surrounding western Nevada farms. In this painting, Smith seems to have accomplished his goal of the interrelation of planes. He managed to weave depth and flatness together so that the painting reads as a landscape receding into the distance and at the same time as a flat patchwork of colors.