Joshua Smith (1905-1995)
An Unsung Master
The final exhibition of works from the estate of Joshua Smith will be opened on Friday, August 13th, 2010 at 6pm
by Paul Delprat, Principal of the Julian Ashton Art School, at the Royal Art Society, Lavender Bay.
Joshua Smith, born 1905, lived his entire life in suburban Sydney and travelled abroad on but two occasions. As an infant, his artistic abilities were recognised by his parents and teachers alike. A devoted mother and supportive father fostered this talent throughout their lives.
Initial studies were undertaken at East Sydney Technical College — drawing and painting with E.M. Smith and sculpture with Rayner Hoff. Later he attended the Sydney Art School (now the Julian Ashton Art School) where he briefly came under the guidance of Julian Ashton. Eight years with Henry C. Gibbons followed. From 1937 he furthered his drawing skills with Adelaide Perry. In that year a stunning pencil drawing of his mother, two thirds life size, won him the Sydney Sesquicentenary Prize for "Best Drawing in any Medium" yet it displayed a technique that was Joshua's own, prior to coming under Perry's guidance. This work was purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales and remains in their collection.
Remarkable that, at the age of nineteen, Joshua's portrait of The Hon. A. Bruntnell, MLA, Minister for Education was hung in the Archibald Prize and highly praised by a critic of the day. In 1943 his penetrating portrait of Dame Mary Gilmore, submitted for the Archibald, was runner-up to Dobell's controversial interpretation of Joshua, a fact he learned during the unprecedented court case that followed the Trustees' decision. Joshua won the Archibald Prize in 1944 with his portrait of The Hon. J. Solomon Rosevear, MHR, who was then Speaker of the House of Representatives.
During World War II, Joshua was recruited into the Australian Military Forces and, being deemed medically unfit for army service, worked as a camoufler. Whilst employed in this way Joshua painted one of his best known works, a double portrait of his parents, purchased in 1943 by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
His sketch books and notes indicate a lifelong interest in the works of the old masters, contemporary artists and the French Impressionists. All held sway for a time, all were included in the personal studies of this self described eclectic artist. From 1967 onwards his friendship with the South Australian artist, Sir Ivor Hele (five times winner of the Archibald Prize), had a powerful influence.
Joshua Smith was made a Fellow of the Royal Art Society in 1953. For five years from 1967, he taught portraiture in an upstairs studio there until he resigned and established his own school in a Lane Cove Scout Hall. This continued for the rest of his life. The art world held him in high esteem as a teacher and acknowledged his wealth of technical knowledge. There was always a waiting list for his classes.
Joshua was a finalist in the Archibald Prize forty-five times, the Wynn eleven times and once in the Sulman. In Canberra he is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery, National Library, Australian War Memorial and Federal Parliament. The state galleries of New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland hold examples of his work. Also the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, the Bathurst Regional and Newcastle Region Art Galleries, Rockhampton Art Gallery, Queensland, the Universities of Western Australia and of Sydney. Important corporate and private collections are too numerous to mention here. Despite these achievements, Joshua Smith remained a humble man until his death in 1995 at the age of ninety years.
a gallery of his work
(click on a thumbnail image to view the larger version)