More than any other Australian painter, Jeffrey Smart has explored the aesthetics of our modern, constructed world. Born in Adelaide in 1921, he recalled: In my early 20s I decided Id painted my last billabong scene forever.1 He instead devoted himself to painting images unique to our time: highways, airports, apartment blocks and factories. Smart asks us to look again at such prosaic subjects and to consider the possibility of discovering a new form of beauty in them. As he said:
I like living in the twentieth century to me the world has never been more beautiful. I am trying to paint the real world I live in, as beautifully as I can, with my own eye.2
1 Jeffrey Smart, quoted in Janet Hawley, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 August 1996.
2 Jeffrey Smart, quoted in Jeffrey Smart retrospective, Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2000, p20.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010