Important Australian + International Fine Art
28 August 2013


(1921 - 2013)

oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas on board

41.0 x 42.5 cm

signed lower right: JEFFREY SMART

$150,000 - 200,000
Sold for $156,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 30 - 28 August 2013, Sydney

Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney
Private collection
Savill Galleries, Sydney (label attached verso)
Collection of Lex Aitken and Alfredo (Bouret) Gonzalez, Sydney


Jeffrey Smart, Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney, 8 November – 3 December 1980 , cat. 2


Quartermaine P., Jeffrey Smart, Gryphon Books, Melbourne, 1983, cat. 737
McDonald, J., Jeffrey Smart: Paintings of the '70s and '80s, Craftsman House, Sydney 1990, cat. 200

Catalogue text

From contemporary life, where apartments, cities, roads and motor vehicles are part of being, Jeffrey Smart developed a language of forms and colours that celebrate signs and surfaces. The miracle of his art lies partly in his conversion of the mundane "what could be less inviting than the back view of a truck departing along a broad road?" into harmonies of the most seductively beautiful colour, full of expectancy and originality. And his mastery of composition is invariably at its best in his paintings of the autobahns, autostradas, and freeways of Europe and Australia. One of his earliest successes was The Cahill Expressway, 1962, in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. The Sydney road was never emptier than in this painting. Yet, his pictures are never really empty. They may feel empty, and isolation is a leitmotif; but they are full of emotion and discovery, imbued with the feeling that something strange is about to happen. As in Surrealism, they have a dream-like quality, accentuated by their super realism, quite unforgettable. His several Black Forest autobahn paintings and studies, inspired by travel through the Black Forest in southwest Germany, are among his most arresting, enlivened by the interplay of red and white diagonals.

For Autobahn in the Black Forest I, Smart makes clever use of the close up view in both study and finished painting, by bringing the back of the sign forward to the picture surface. Then, between the other backsides, he cheekily introduces that of the truck in a colour of brilliant aqua. Everything is on the move - actually, in the truck, and visually, through the recession of the road signs - but Smart freezes the moment for our disturbance and delectation. The yellow arrow points in the opposite direction setting up further notions of movement; light plays on the signs in a concerto of contrasts; and the grey of the road surface finds harmony in the leaden skies. The placement of the sign right on the picture plane provides a subtle difference between the painting and the study. It is dramatically confronting, halting the eye and increasing the illusion of recession. The study has three red diagonals instead of two, with a partially seen yellow lamp at the top. While the study gives insight into the painting's evolution, they each share a feast of dramatic angles, subtle tonal variations through shadow and the fall of light, and the rhythmic play between positive and negative space. There is something magical about art, especially in the illusion - as simple and as fascinating as the curve of the pole contrasting with the flat of the painted sign.