Jeffrey Smart (1921- 2013)

With a unique perspective on life and the way he showed a talent for effectively using colour and light to transform mundane subject matter into something special, the expatriate painter, Jeffrey Smart has come to be considered a legend within the Australian art world, renowned for his modernist depictions of urban landscapes.

Born in Adelaide in 1921, Smart received a formal art education at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts, Adelaide and the Adelaide Teacher’s College. It was during this time of study that Smart produced images painted from careful sketches made from nature. As he worked constantly on improving on nature by creating a better composition, this began his life-long preoccupation with composition, object placement and the still image. As a consequence of this commitment and the way he elevated symbols to make nature more recognisable, Smart became recognised as painter who preceded Graphic Art.

Although Smart initially aspired to be an architect, he went on to be an art teacher working for the South Australian Education Department from 1942-1947. Some of these schools he taught at include the South Australian School of Art , the King’s School, Sydney and the East Sydney Technical School. It was during his time as a teacher that Smart also came to realise his own homosexuality which later prompted his 1996 autobiography, “Not Quite Straight”.

Continuing his art education abroad, Smart went on to study in Paris at the Academie Montmartre and La Grande Chaumiere in 1949. After working as an art critic for the Daily Telegraph in 1954-1955, he began to frequently exhibit his work in 1957 and receive notable recognition from the art world. This was well-reflected when London’s Tate Gallery included his surrealist paintings in their exhibition of Australian Art in 1962.

In 1965 Smart moved to Italy where he bought a restored eighteenth-century farmhouse in Posticcia Nuova, near Arezzo in 1971. This is where the artist still resides. Many critics argue that despite Smart’s move to Italy, there still remains a distinct Australian sense of humour in his work which can be seen in the way he follows the strict compositional rules of painting to create a highly ambiguous and often surreal settings.

Often using his work to depict industrial urban landscapes, the influence of the idyllic environment surrounding Smart’s Tuscan villa rarely makes its presence known in his art. Despite the artist’s refusal to the claim, many critics argue that this reflects Smart’s position as a social critic deploring the dehumanized and denatured cities of modern experience.

Today the work of Jeffrey Smart is represented by Australian State Galleries in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and the Yale University collection, USA. His work is regularly for sale via art auction being a favourite of many art investors. See: Jeffrey Smart Exhibitions, Art Auctions or Investment Art Consultants.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest posts

  • Choosing a Visual Arts Bachelor Degree in Australia

    Pursuing a Visual Arts Degree in Australia is an exciting time I remember all too well! However, navigating the rather diverse landscape of artistic education can be overwhelming as well as thrilling, which is why we’ve put together this guide to help you choose the right Visual Arts degree for you! This guide is crafted…

    Read more

  • Charles Conder (1868 – 1909)

    Having been referred to as “the last bohemian”, the unconventional life of the gifted artist, Charles Conder has made him one of the most intriguing artists of the late 19th century. Leaving a lasting impression on the Australian and international art world he is considered to have played a large role in establishing the great…

    Read more