Vale: Jeffrey Smart


Jeffrey Smart was Australia’s pre-eminent painter of the contemporary world. Born in Adelaide, in 1921, his first ambition was to be an architect, and though he eventually trained as an artist his love of the created environment remained.

William Yang, Australia b.1943 / Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart 1980 / Inkjet print on solid substrate Kapaplast / 27 x 40cm / Courtesy: The artist / © William Yang

He taught art in Adelaide from 1941 until 1948, when he left Australia for London, travelling via the United States. In 1949 he studied under Fernand Léger in Paris, at the Academie Montmartre, and also as La Grande Chaumière. He returned to Australia in 1952, and worked as art critic for the Sydney Daily Telegraph until 1954 and he was known to many Australian children as Phidias on the ABC Radio program ‘The Argonauts’ in the 1950s. Not until 1964 was he able to devote himself entirely to painting, when he made the move to Italy, where he lived until his death, but he returned frequently to Australia.

Smart finds the poetry in modern urban environments and distills it into his compositions. The traveller 1973 assumes the presence of a cityscape, but the picture is predominantly composed around the form of the buses. There is also a tension between the purely formal elements of line and colour and the suggestion of narrative implied by the figure. The inclusion of the traveller in Smart’s urban composition reinserts a human presence into the formal concerns of modernist painting.

Jeffrey Smart, Australia/Italy 1921-2013 / The traveller 1973 / Synthetic polymer paint and oil on canvas / 100.5 x 116cm / Purchased 1975 with the assistance of an Australian Government Grant through the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © QAGOMA

Know Brisbane through the QAGOMA Collection / Delve into our Queensland Stories / Read more about Australian Art / Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes



  1. Hi Just researching and would like to know the dimensions for Jeffrey Smart’s ‘The Traveller’ c 1973

  2. Hi Eric. The dimensions for The traveller are 100.5 x 116cm. Regards QAGOMA