In Memorium: Australian Artist Jeffrey Smart

Cahill Expressway

Last week the art blogs and websites were lit up over the death of prominent Australian artist Jeffrey Smart, who passed away on June 20 at the age of 91 at his home in Italy. Though he lived more than half his life in Italy, Jeffrey Smart was regarded as one of Australia’s greatest artists, and along with Albert Tucker, Charles Blackman, Sidney Nolan and Brett Whiteley, he was also considered one of the leading Australian twentieth century modernists. Another expatriate Australian, Clive James, once wrote Smart was the “modern Australian painter whose paintings look least Australian”.

Surfer's BondiIndeed, rather than beautiful Australian landscapes, Smart choose to portray an urban life of factories, trucks, roadways and vacant lots. He was moved by man in man-made nature and not concerned with your typical landscape. His paintings take everyday symbols of modernity and transform them into remarkably still, harmoniously composed images (Smart once said, “… to me, composition is everything.”) Human figures are often small and isolated, regarded by many as a representation of urban alienation. A feeling of loneliness runs through his work, adding to the effect of distance and alienation.

While some critics have referenced his work as surreal, others have cast him as a realist, hyper-realist, ‘off-beat classicalist’ and a metaphysical painter. Smart himself famously and smartly choose to never classify his art, contending that it’s the modern urban world that’s surreal and not his depictions of it.

A prolific artist, he produced at least 799 works between 1939 and 1982, and had continued to produce new work up to last year. Here is but a small sample of the work of this important and influential twentieth century artist.

About Stephen Kelly Creative

Hi, I'm Stephen Kelly, a writer, editor, photographer and graphic designer living in beautiful San Francisco, CA, USA. Amongst the things I love are writing, photography, movies, music, fitness, travel, Batman, all things Australian, food and fun, all of which I hope to reflect in this here blog. Welcome aboard ... now let's get busy!
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14 Responses to In Memorium: Australian Artist Jeffrey Smart

  1. Alex H says:

    Awesome……..Just Awesome Share.I love it.Looking forward for more.Alex,Thanks.

  2. Pat says:

    I like his work and enjoyed studying his composition. Thanks, Stephen.

  3. carylbeach says:

    a real inspiration to look at the world from a different angle

  4. The “loneliness, distance, and alienation” you comment on are what I notice most. They’re there even when there’s more than one human figure in the work, and oddly enough, the mostly sunny and brightly lit, pastel colors make it seem even more so. What an odd man!

    • Hello Victoria! He was apparently a fairly eccentric man … his interviews reveal a man with his own original view of the world … perhaps living away from his native Australia for so long gave his work the sense of someone viewing things from a distance.

  5. cyardin says:

    Reblogged this on Something for Pok and commented:
    Jeffrey Smart was my favourite artist and he will be a fondly remembered Australian. He has left us with a beautiful legacy.

  6. Andrew says:

    Beautiful stuff. I wish I could own the surfboard one.

  7. The Guat says:

    Dude! Nice! Very nice. I’m loving all the colors and I agree with Andrew … the surfboard is my favorite.

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