Jeffrey Smart

Dates + venue

Friday 29 November, 11am
Gandel Hall

National Gallery of Australia

Parkes Place

Parkes, Canberra

Jeffrey Smart AO was born in 1921 and educated in Adelaide. The son of a land agent, he studied at the South Australian School of Art and held his first solo exhibition in Melbourne in 1944. He travelled to Europe to study in Paris, first at the Grande Chaumière and later at the Académie Montmartre under Fernand Léger.

Over a career of more than 70 years, Smart made images of figures dwarfed by the strong shapes of man-made structures in desolate urban environments. His highways, airports, factories and road signs made something enigmatic and surreal out of the mundanely familiar. He never wavered from his vision, remaining faithful to figuration in the decades when the fashion in art was for the abstract and the conceptual. Notable for strong composition and painterly skill, his works are hard-edged but often delight with colour, startling the viewer to see the beauty inherent in the infrastructure and detritus of our cities. 

Jeffrey Smart’s work is held in all major public collections across Australia as well as in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and was included in the exhibitions of Australian art in London at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1961, the Tate Gallery in 1963 and the current Australia exhibition at the Royal Academy. He has been the subject of several surveys, including a retrospective organised by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, in 1999 and a major survey at the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide, in 2012.

In 1975, Smart met his life partner, Italian-Australian painter Ermes DeZan. Together, they restored a rundown farmhouse, ‘Posticcia Nuova’, and its garden located near Arezzo. There, in the 1990s, Smart wrote Not quite straight: a memoir, a vivid series of snapshots of his transformation from Adelaide art teacher, short stint as art critic, ‘cult’ radio and television personality on The Argonauts Club, to successful artist and Tuscan signore.

The National Gallery of Australia invites the Canberra community to the Jeffrey Smart Memorial.



  • Her Excellency the Hon Quentin Bryce AC CVO
  • Dr Ron Radford AM
  • Mr Philip Bacon AM
  • Mr Edmund Capon AM OBE

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(banner image) Selfportrait at Papini's 1984-85 (detail), private collection