Although a few landscapes are included in his known works, Smets was primarily a painter of the sea. Port scenes, fishing boats, sailors and coastal dunes are all subjects he tackled frequently. Painting in an Impressionist style his work is always highly colored and full of vigor. He painted in both oils and watercolors on canvas, boards and even verre églomisé, the painting on the reverse side of glass.
Leon Smets was born in Mechelen in 1895 but his family moved to Antwerp two years later. At the age of seventeen he attended the Antwerp academy to study under de Vriendt. He would remain there for two years before graduating as an industrial designer. We do not know when he changed from industrial design to easel painting but we believe it to be sometime in the early 1930’s. For the next sixty years he produced thousands of attractive maritime scenes which were eagerly acquired by the public.
In 1950 he co-found the art group Het Pentagram and in 1965 Peintres du Port et de l’Escaut. His paintings are housed in the public collections of the museums of Ostend, Brussels and Antwerp.