Eric Smith trained in art in Melbourne before serving in the army during World War 2. After the war, he recommenced study at RMIT under the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Training Scheme. He won the Blake Prize for religious art six times between 1956 and 1970, and the Sulman Prize in 1953, 1973 and 2003. He first entered the Archibald Prize with a strong self portrait in 1944; he won the Prize in 1970, 1981 and 1982 with portraits of Neville Gruzman, Rudi Komon and Peter Sculthorpe respectively. He won the Wynne Prize in 1972 and 1974. He is represented in the National Gallery, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Queensland Art Gallery as well as several regional galleries.