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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Jeffrey Smart

2012
Dave Tacon

type C photograph on paper (sheet: 34.6 cm x 48.2 cm, image: 26.9 cm x 40.6 cm)

Jeffrey Smart (1921–2013) was an iconic realist painter, acclaimed for his urban and industrial landscapes which form one of the most original and recognisable bodies of work in the canon of Australian art. He created a distinctive style that captured the stillness and alienation of the industrialised world with metaphysical nuance and a refined, crisp clarity of vision. Born in Adelaide in 1921, Smart studied part-time at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts under Marie Tuck and Rupert Bunny in the late 1930s. Influenced by modernist artist Dorrit Black, Smart acquainted himself with the 'Golden Mean', a ratio used to create mathematically-sound proportions that translated into artistic composition. This geometric proportion ratio has been used since ancient Greek times in many works of art and architecture. Smart used the complex network of interlocking rectangles, triangles and diagonals to calculate the structure of his paintings and form the basis of all of his artworks.

Smart began exhibiting in group shows in the early 1940s and had his first solo exhibition in Melbourne in 1944, opened by Robert Menzies. In 1948, Smart travelled to England via the United States. He then went to Paris and studied at the Grande Chaumière before attending the Académie Montmartre, studying under Fernand Leger for six months. Throughout this period he travelled in Europe with Australian friends including Michael Shannon, Jacqueline Hick, Donald Friend and Margaret Cilento. His travels allowed Smart the opportunity to view and study the work of artists he admired – in particular Paul Cezanne, Piero della Francesca, Rogier van der Weyden, Giovanni Bellini, and Titian. On returning to Australia in 1951, Smart settled in Sydney where he lived, worked and exhibited for the next twelve years. During this period, he also worked as an art critic for the Daily Telegraph, as a life drawing teacher at Easy Sydney Technical College, and as the arts correspondent for the ABC children's radio programme the Argonauts Club. In 1964, Smart moved to Italy, initially living in Rome before settling in Arezzo, Tuscany in the early 1970s, and he remained there until his death in 2013.

Despite his relocation to Tuscany, Smart continued to exhibit in Australia where he enjoyed ongoing popular and critical success. During the 1960s, Smart became increasingly dedicated to the representation of the modern city. Each painting was executed with classical precision and included repetitious architectural motifs which reference and were influenced by the flat perspective of Renaissance painting and frescoes. He saw beauty in everyday scenes, choosing to paint highways, factories, trucks, billboards, carparks and vacant city lots in compositions characterised by the play of the shapes, light, shadow and geometry of the urban environment. He once said of his subjects: 'Perhaps I'm trying to help people see the beauty in a gas tank, a road divider, a yellow truck. I paint buildings, factories, freeways, satellite dishes, because I like the definite forms and clean shapes.'

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2012
© Dave Tacon/Copyright Agency, 2022

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Dave Tacon (age 36 in 2012)

Jeffrey Smart AO (age 91 in 2012)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

© National Portrait Gallery 2022
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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