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Jeffrey Smart was born in Adelaide on July 26, 1921, as the only son of Francis Isaac Smart, a real estate agent and his second wife, Emmeline Mildred (nee Edson). His elder half-sister was from his father’s first marriage.
He first travelled to Europe when he was a child of four, but after the Great Depression destroyed his father’s business, life became more confined. Nevertheless he was able to take Saturday drawing classes from the age of 12. His early interest was in architecture, but financial reality meant that he became a trainee teacher instead. He also attended classes at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts.He was fortunate that the pioneer modernist, Dorrit Black had returned to Adelaide and it was she who first introduced him to the clean pure lines and cubic forms of modernism.
He began teaching school in 1941,the same year he first exhibited with the Royal South Australian Society of Arts. He then approached a Melbourne commercial gallery, where he held his first solo exhibition. His clear-toned smooth painted geometric urban landscapes, where human figures sometimes appear as an intrusion, led him to be seen as an inoffensive modernist, an artist who could straddle both the Charm School and Surrealism.
He first travelled to Europe as an adult in 1948. His experience of the great European collections, especially the work of Cezanne which he saw in Paris,and the work of the Quattrocento Italian artists helped mature his own vision.
Smart returned to Adelaide in 1951 and after he was awarded the Commonwealth Jubilee Art Prize he moved to Sydney, where there were opportunities to exhibit his art.
In Sydney he became the art critic of the Daily Telegraph, while continuing to support himself by working as a school teacher. Later he became the beloved Phidias, the art expert, at the ABC Radio children’s Argonauts program. Later he made the transition to television. As he became more successful as an artist Smart was able to leave school teaching and taught for a short time at East Sydney Technical College.
In 1963 he was able to leave teaching and relocate to Italy where he was based for the rest of his life. Although he was surrounded by antiquity, the subjects he chose for his art tended to be those from modernity. He was entranced by the giant cubic shapes of industrial containers, empty streets, the absurd conjunction of old and new, of nature meeting geometry.
Smart continued to exhibit in Australia for the rest of his life. He held exhibitions in public galleries as well as dealer galleries, and he was the subject of significant public praise. The Art Gallery of New South Wales held a retrospective exhibition of his paintings in 1999.
As with many of his generation, Smart was hesitant at first to declare his sexuality, but later wrote a memoir, Not Quite Straight.
His longest, and most loving relationship was with a fellow artist, Ermes de Zan who was with him from 1976 until he died.


Joanna Mendelssohn
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