A painful observation of Jeffrey Smart, one of Australia’s most popular painters

I had never met him, but Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013) was my first art teacher. As “Phideas” on ABC Radio Argonauts The program talked about art and artists, explaining their perspectives to children across Australia.

I remember two things I heard when I was a kid.It was a wonder at first Golden ratio, A magical geometric ratio that dominates the tradition of Western art. The second was the story RembrandtHe went his own way as an artist, even though it led to criticism from his peers.

After discovering the identity of Phidias, I could see the golden mean in his carefully constructed paintings. But Rembrandt? The surface of Jeffrey Smart’s paintings pays close attention to the Italian Renaissance, and his composition may include echoes of metaphysical works. Giorgio de Chirico.. They have nothing in common with Rembrandt’s pictorial approach.

Jeffrey Smart, Waiting for the train, 1969-70. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased in 1969, Gift of Alcoa World Alumina Australia 2005, © The Estate of Jeffrey Smart.

But that wasn’t the point of the story. Smart was talking in Sydney around 1960. The time and place was the time when the artist was expected to swallow a heterosexual man who abstracted the painting. Smart wasn’t part of that culture.He had lifelong loyalty to the classic form of Italy Quattrocento, Especially exquisite formal geometry Piero della Francesca.. His love of structure, smooth surface, fine details and his sexuality made him confront Australia.

Jeffrey Smart, Savona morning, 1976, University Art Collection, Chau Chak Wing Museum, University of Sydney, Alan Richard Renshaw Bequest 1976. © The Estate of Jeffrey Smart.

A few years after he withdrew to Italy, his homeland came to fully understand the elegance of his painful observations. In his old age, the artist once got out of touch with his peers and became one of Australia’s most popular sons.

Now, to commemorate his 100th anniversary, National Gallery’s Deborah Hart and Rebecca Edwards have curated a thoughtful and generous reassessment that connects Smart to the places and people who feed him.

Shape, line, color

It begins in his hometown of Adelaide. It is a city with a well-planned city center and (at that time) Protestant conformance culture.

Young smart painted buildings and industrial waste. How light and shade create a pattern on the surface. The contrast between a well-constructed shape and a fluid humanity.

Jeffrey Smart, Cardboard Jokonda, 1976. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased in 1976, © The Estate of Jeffrey Smart.

The local cinema introduced him to Alfred Hitchcock. Alfred Hitchcock’s film uses visual cues to hint at tension. Hitchcock was famous for inserting himself as a coincidence in his story. I’ve always wondered if that lonely person in many of the smart paintings is a homage to the original master of visual suspense.

Smart will discuss his work only in terms of the formal relationship between shape, line and color.This formalist claim dates back to his early work in Adelaide and the influence of modernist painters. Dorit Black (1891-1951) returned to Adelaide a few years later in France.Curator included her House roof and flowers Hanging next to the early structured ones of Smart Seated nude.. The connection is easy to see.

Jeffrey Smart, Kezwick siding, 1945. Tarntanya / Adelaide. Oil on canvas. 62 x 72.1 cm. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sidney Charles B Moses Gift 1982 193. 1982

Some of his paintings from the Adelaide era have a sense of wanting to escape. Kezwick siding.. After he moved to Sydney, his art was accepted as part of it, despite his fashionable dedication to accuracy and classical form. Charm school, It wasn’t. Living and working in Sydney, he has become highly regarded as a teacher and broadcaster at the National School of Fine Arts.

Humor and friends

Even the most structured pieces of smart maturity contain visual jokes and human touches.of HolidayIn 1971, the relentless pattern of balconies and windows was destroyed by a small figure of a woman spending time relaxing in the sun. He always claimed to have introduced people to the paintings of the building to give it a sense of scale, an old artist’s trick.I don’t know how it works Portrait of Clive JamesUnless it reminds the subject of his importance in planning things.

Jeffrey Smart. Portrait of Clive James. 1991–92 Tuscany, Italy. Oil on canvas. 109 x 90.4 cm. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Purchased with funding from the Art Gallery of New South Wales 1992 © The Estate of Jeffrey Smart Photo: AGNSW 276.1992

With the move of Smart to Italy in 1963, his palette became brighter and he was happy to celebrate the light with the contrasting geometry of the block-like shapes of the modern world and the old human scale. There is a running theme for Visual Wit, but only for those who notice it. Waiting for the train There is an echo of the composition by (1969-70) Piero della FrancescaAlthough it is a dark tone.

His portrait of Germaine Greer places her towards a strong wall. This is a surprisingly rough painting texture, either a comment on the character of the subject or a counter-argument to someone who thinks he lacks technical skills as a painter.

Jeffrey Smart. Portrait of Germaine Greer.. 1984 Tuscany, Italy. Oil paints and synthetic polymer paints on canvas. 96 x 120 cm.Private collection

Some of the most satisfying pieces are portraits of smart friends, where his humor works. The scholar writer David Malouf is depicted as an overalls craftsman and has a twisted orange pipe. Margaret Olly is at the Louvre, a place she loved, but in front of a row of anonymous wooden screens.

Jeffrey Smart. Portrait of David Malouf.. 1980 Tuscany, Italy. Oil paints and synthetic polymer paints on canvas. 100 x 100 cm. State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth. Purchased in 1983 © The Estate of Jeffrey Smart 1983 / 0P13

The most attractive of all listener, In 1965, a young man being monitored by surveillance radar is lying on a grass field. The head is a portrait of a smart friend of art critic Paul Haefliger who withdrew from Australia to Mallorca.

Jeffrey Smart. listener.. 1965 Rome, Italy. Oil on canvas. 91.5 x 71 cm. Ballarat art gallery, Ballarat. William, Rene, Blairrichie collection. Blairitchie’s Bequest 1998 © The Estate of Jeffrey Smart 1998.23

It shows the visual contrast between modern technology and nature, between golden grass, red radar and the dark sky, and (for those who know) the model’s young body and the aged Hefriger’s head. I am.

Smart portraits rarely focus on the subject.The only exception is Two-up game (portrait of Hermes), 2008, became a smart life partner in 1975. His gentle face is backed by the solid geometry of the container on one side and the fluidity of the people playing the game of chance on the other side.

Formally, his image in the foreground balances the composition. This also seems to make sense, for all reasons.

Jeffrey Smart. Two-up game (portrait of Hermes).. 2006 Tuscany, Italy. Oil on canvas. 86.8 x 158.4 cm. TarraWarra Museum, Healesville. Purchased in 2006 2006.01

Jeffrey Smart will be at the National Gallery of Australia until May 15, 2022conversation

Joanna Mendelssohn, Principal Fellow, University of Melbourne Victorian University of the Arts (Hong). Editor-in-Chief of Design and Art, Australia Online University of Melbourne

This article will be republished from conversation Under a Creative Commons license.read Original work..

A painful observation of Jeffrey Smart, one of Australia’s most popular painters

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