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Jeffrey Smart: Master of Stillness (ATOM Study Guide)

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If a good painting comes off, it has a stillness, it has a perfection, and that's as great as anything that a musician or a poet can do.' – Jeffrey Smart

'I find it funny that perhaps in 100 years time, if people look at paintings done by the artists of this century, of our century, that the most ubiquitous things, like motor cars and television sets and telephones, don't appear in any of the pictures. We should paint the things around us. Motor cars are very beautiful. I'm a great admirer of Giorgio Morandi – we all love Morandi – and he had all his props, his different bottles and his things. See, my props are petrol stations and trucks and it's just the same thing. It's a different range of things.' – Jeffrey Smart

Jeffrey Smart: Master of Stillness (Catherine Hunter, 2012) sheds light on the early influences of one of our greatest painters. Born in Adelaide in 1921, Smart's early years were spent discovering the back lanes of the city's inner suburbs. Now retired from painting, his last work Labyrinth (2011) evokes those memories.

'It is also a kind of arrival at the painting he was always chasing, never satisfied, hoping the next one on the easel would be the elusive masterpiece, the one that said it all. In this sense, Labyrinth brings a full stop to his career, and at the same time makes for a full, perpetual circle within his life.' – Barry Pearce, Emeritus Curator, Art Gallery of NSW

In 2011, the University of South Australia conferred an honorary doctorate on Jeffrey Smart, the South Australian School of Art's greatest alumnus. And in October 2012, a retrospective exhibition of Smart's work opened in South Australia across two venues and later travelled to the TarraWarra Museum of Art in Victoria.

A one-time teacher in Adelaide, Jeffrey Smart was always drawn to the idea of living in Italy. In 1951, he left Adelaide for Sydney where he became famous as Phidias in the ABC's Argonauts Club and art critic on the Children's Hour. He moved to Italy in the early 1960s and has lived there ever since.

It was in Italy that the colours and shapes and designs of a country rebuilding itself after the war inspired a new vernacular of modern painting for Smart. Street signs, apartment blocks, and construction sites became his subject matter.

'He confronted this universe of technology and architecture anywhere his travels took him, declaring it was beautiful, and became its most passionate poet ...' – Barry Pearce.

Curriculum Guidelines

Jeffrey Smart: Master of Stillness would be an excellent film to show to secondary and tertiary students of Visual Arts, Studio Arts, Art and Design and/or Fine Arts. It would also be valuable for students of Culture and Society and Biography. At the same time, Media Studies students could study the structure and editing of the film as a model of clarity and conciseness. In less than half an hour we learn a great deal about this now 91-year-old artist, his work and the places, people and experiences that have shaped his art.

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