Jeffrey Smart exhibition opens at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra and shows ‘a master at the height of his art’


One hundred years ago this year, famous Australian artist Jeffrey Smart was born in Adelaide.

His works have been exhibited across the world, inspiring authors and artists – and now a new exhibition in his honor is about to open at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra.

From tomorrow, the walls of the NGA will be lined with 100 appropriately numbered pieces, handpicked from public lenders and private collectors as well as from the collection of the National Gallery.

Keswick siding in Adelaide, painted in 1945 by Jeffrey Smart.(AGNSW)

The exhibition is designed to take the public on a journey through Smart’s main works.

“[It] is not necessarily a retrospective. However, it walks you through the three main jobs he has undertaken, ”said NGA Director Nick Mitzevich.

“His work in Adelaide, then his experiments and perfecting his Sydney based art, then the paintings he made in the latter part of his life from Italy.”

Smart was indeed deeply influenced by his upbringing in South Australia and many of his pieces focused on these landscapes.

“It would be fair to say that the unique shape and light of these South Australian landscapes, along with my fascination with urban patterns, formed the alpha and omega of how I would continue to see the world. through my painting, ”quotes Barry Pearce. told him in his 2012 book, Master of Stillness: Jeffrey Smart.

The face of a man in an abstract self-portrait on the left of the painting, with some Italian buildings on the right.
Jeffrey Smart painted ‘Self portrait, Procida’ in southern Italy in 1956-57.(Provided: NGA)

But inspiration often struck Smart as well when he wasn’t looking for it.

Later in life, he admitted to loving “everything Italian”.

“I love their casual way. I love the language, and I love spaghetti, and I love Italian painting, and I love the Italian way of life,” he told Michael Maher for Foreign Correspondent.

A man in a blue sweater sits in a wheelchair, painting a maze.
Jeffrey Smart in his studio in Arezzo, Italy, 2011, while painting his latest work, ‘Labyrinth’.(Provided: Rob Palmer)

Mr. Mitzevich promised that visitors to the exhibition would see “an evolution of Jeffrey Smart’s paintings from his debut in Adelaide in the 1940s, to the last painting he made in 2011 before his death in 2013” .

In addition to the landscapes for which he is so well known, Smart’s final work, Labyrinth, will be on display at the NGA, along with several portraits and some of his early works.

“His view of the world was quite unique”

Jeffrey Smart
Jeffrey Smart painted “Alma Mahler Feeding the Birds” in 1967-1968.(AGNSW)

Mr. Mitzevich described Smart as “a master at the top of his game”.

“Jeffrey Smart is an artist who during the 20th century really made his own journey,” he said.

“His work never fell into the traps of chauvinism or provincialism, it always had great clarity and [gave] us a very clear and new look at the modern world, and that is why his highways, these cityscapes, the characters who are represented in his paintings, are so surprising and attract us.

“The landscapes he portrayed are familiar but also strange. We are therefore captivated by them.”

Smart - Cap Dombey 1947
Jeffrey Smart’s “Cape Dombey” was painted in 1947.

One of these landscapes is the Cahill Expressway, painted in 1962 and showing a solitary figure standing, almost out of context, under a very familiar landscape.

“The fact that Jeffrey Smart gives us these landscapes and cityscapes that don’t give us all the answers means we’re intrigued to join the dots,” Mitzevich said.

Cahill Expressway 1962 Jeffrey Smart
Smart’s 1962 work, ‘Cahill Expressway’.(provided)

The exhibit, which has been delayed due to COVID-19, will open on Saturday December 11 and run until May 15, 2022.

“We have strategies in place to make sure the experience is a safe one against COVID. And the numbers are limited to ensure that we give everyone a sense of comfort and keep everyone safe,” he said. said Mr. Mitzevich.

“So my advice is to book early, come in and see the show and if you like it come back at the end of the season.”

Two men hang a Jeffrey Smart painting of intertwined poles.
The installation of “Plastic Tubes” by Jeffrey Smart, 1980, at the National Gallery in Canberra.(Provided: NGA)


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