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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.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Joshua Smith

In their own words

Recorded 1965

Joshua Smith
Audio: 2 minutes

The procedure for the portrait: Mr Rosevear came to the home and I painted it in our breakfast room where mother would prepare tea in between sittings. If I remember correctly, I asked for about 15 sittings. Being the first official portrait that I’d been given from the Government I was rather a bit scared, you know. Anyway, Mr Rosevear was very co-operative, and it eventually won the Archibald, so, quite good!

Now with my own procedure as regards portrait painting, that has varied considerably over the years. At one stage, I used to make a small drawing, say about 15 inches deep, in pencil, and more in the nature of a very accurate map, and then work from that; but later I found that I prefer to draw straight onto the canvas with charcoal, just dust that off and then paint direct. And I also like to have my sitter in front of me the whole time.

Now I’ve been asked to say something about Chips Rafferty’s portrait and how I did it. Well that was painted out in the open in the lawn in his backyard. I had a good many sittings. I remember Chips saying to me, ‘You’ve worn a track across my lawn, running backwards and forwards!’. I like to have my canvas right alongside my subject and get back from it to make my observations as far as possible.

Now I’ve been asked about any particular highlights in my life. Well, I think one of the most important things that I can remember is my first sale of a drawing. And it was a little drawing of my mother, a pencil drawing of my mother playing the piano. And we had it in the Julian Ashton School sketch club. And I was sitting next to the late Julian Ashton and Julian turned to me and said, ‘Would you take half a guinea for it?’. I said ‘Sold!’.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Joshua Smith is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

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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.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency