Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013) Study for Placard and Underpass, 1986

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Lot 32
Jeffrey Smart
(1921-2013)
Study for Placard and Underpass, 1986

Sold for AU$ 209,100 (US$ 151,011) inc. premium

Important Australian Art

17 Nov 2021, 18:00 EST

Sydney

Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013)
Study for Placard and Underpass, 1986
signed lower right: 'JEFFREY SMART'
oil on board
40.0 x 49.0cm (15 3/4 x 19 5/16in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE
    Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney
    Private collection
    Sotheby's, Sydney, 29 November 1991, lot 376
    Private collection, Melbourne
    Private collection, Melbourne

    EXHIBITED
    Jeffrey Smart, Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney, 3 - 21 November 1987, cat. 9

    LITERATURE
    John McDonald, Jeffrey Smart Paintings of the '70's & '80s, Craftsman House, Roseville, 1990, p. 38 (illus.), p. 161, cat. 312

    RELATED WORK
    Placard and Underpass, 1986-87, oil on canvas, 87.5 x 110.0cm, private collection

    There are pivotal moments in an artist's life that can have such a profound influence on their work, directing their oeuvre on an incredible trajectory. Throughout his lifetime Jeffery Smart had a number of fortuities of that ilk. Without doubt two of the most critical events in his career were the inclusion of his work in the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition in London in June 1961, 'Recent Australian Painting'; and his departure from Sydney in December 1963 for London via Naples. In their own way, both episodes brought him to Italy and by the end of 1964 Smart was installed in an apartment next to Mussolini's former residence in Rome. So began his fascination with Italy's urban landscape, a theme which became the mainstay of his paintings. He stayed in Rome until 1970 having purchased the Tuscan villa Posticcia Nuova, where the present work was created, most likely a moment witnessed in the local Arezzo industrial neighbourhood, a favoured location for Smart and one that he revisited in numerous paintings.

    'As a modern and post-modern man surrounded by the absurdities of a technological world surpassing itself with rapid-fire obsolence and violent disruptions of tradition, Smart has been compelled to bring elements of humour into his work. In light of this, it is no wonder that the geometry of his vision has been viewed as the component of gravitas, the answer to the question of meaning in his language that carries forward and echo of some ennobling principle in spite of the apparent irony – even banality – of his subject matter. Indeed it must be said that once Smart has seized his subject he has proceeded consistently towards the Holy Grail of a perfectly calibrated composition perhaps feeling that maybe, just maybe, it will hit the jackpot and answer the question of what we are all doing here, and how we connect with time-honoured measurement of humanity in the flux of eternity.' 1

    The present work, combines all the elements that are synonymous with Smart's compositions, cleverly positioning the viewer at the top of the concaved road markings which subconsciously engage the viewer to question - left or right? - a vantage point seen in similar works from the previous decade such as The Arezzo Turnoff, 1973. Smart's use of bold primary colours heighten each component - the isolated figure standing at the intersection; the archetypal semi-trailer crossing the overpass, the arrowed road signs enticing to the right; and the painted billboard with its subliminal messaging transporting the viewer away from the existing grey skies and asphalt. Study for Placard and Underpass, 1986, is a quintessential example of Jeffrey Smart's urban-scapes and his pursuit for compositional harmony.

    Alex Clark

    1. Barry Pearce, Jeffrey Smart, The Beagle Press, Roseville, 2005, p. 194
Contacts
Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013) Study for Placard and Underpass, 1986
Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013) Study for Placard and Underpass, 1986
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