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The painter transmogrified and Mrs Smith
, 1973

by Eric Smith

oil on canvas laid down on masonite (frame: 151.5 cm x 178.5 cm depth 5.0 cm, support: 148.5 cm x 175.5 cm)

Eric Smith (1919-2017), painter, and Dorothea Joy Darcy were married in Melbourne in 1946 and moved to Sydney in 1952. By that time, they had two children; they would have three more. In 1954 a review of a group exhibition singled Smith’s work out for praise: ‘Eric Smith’s Industrial Landscape compels our attention by the controlled violence of its colour, and by a mysticism that sees cathedrals in factories and crosses in telegraph poles . . Mr Smith conveys the impression that he sees these forms as a modern Golgotha – harrowing, portentous yet part of our everyday world.’ The painter transmogrified and Mrs Smith hints at what it’s like for a commonsensical person to live with a co-parent who sees things this way, and is compelled to realise his vision even if it means setting up paints and easel in the bedroom. By the time he painted this work the artist had won the Blake Prize for religious art six times, and the Sulman Prize for a ‘subject painting’ or a ‘genre painting’ once. At once a painter’s exercise in different ways of portraying personality, a wry reflection on relationships, and Eric Smith’s tribute to his wife’s stability, The painter transmogrified and Mrs Smith won him his second Sulman Prize.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the Estate of Eric Smith 2019
Accession number: 2019.27