Jeffrey Smart / Australia/Italy 1921–2013 / The traveller 1973 / Synthetic polymer paint and oil on canvas / 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

Jeffrey Smart
The traveller 1973

On Display: QAG, Gallery 11

Jeffrey Smart found the poetry in modern urban environments and distilled it into his compositions. The traveller assumes the presence of a cityscape, but the picture is predominantly composed of buses. There is also tension between the formal elements of line and colour and the suggestion of narrative implied by the figure, whose inclusion inserts a human presence into this modernist painting.

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

He taught art in Adelaide from 1941 to 1948 when he left Australia for London via the United States. The following year Smart studied under Fernand Léger at the Academie Montmartre and also at La Grande Chaumiére, Paris.

He returned to Australia in 1952 and worked as art critic for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph until 1954. He was also known to many Australian children as Phidias on the ABC Radio program ‘The Argonauts’.

Ten years later, in 1964, Smart was able to devote himself entirely to painting when he moved to Italy, where he lived until his death in 2013, although he returned frequently to Australia. In 1999, the Art Gallery of New South Wales held a major retrospective of his work, which travelled to the Queensland Art Gallery in 2000.

Discussion Questions

Why is this painting called The traveller? Using your imagination, describe where the traveller is going, or where he might be returning from.

Classroom Activities

Write a diary entry that reflects one traveller’s experience of transiting through a cityscape. Describe the sights, sounds, tastes, textures of the place they have visited. Draw upon your own travel memories, or experience of favourite places you have visited, to write a realistic account.