Important Australian + International Fine Art
20 April 2011


(1879 - 1959, British)

oil on linen

51.0 x 61.0 cm

$30,000 - 40,000
Sold for $36,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 19 - 20 April 2011, Melbourne

The Mayor Gallery, London (label attached verso)
Sir Donald Anderson, United Kingdom
Thence by descent
Private collection, Canberra


Memorial Exhibition of works by Sir Matthew Smith, Royal Academy for the Arts, London, October – December 1960, cat. 293 (label attached verso)

Catalogue text

In an oeuvre devoted largely to still life subjects and the female nude, Matthew Smith painted with a passion that is palpable. Born in Halifax, Yorkshire, to a puritanically austere family, Smith escaped the predestined industrial life for that of an artist. He also escaped the strictures of the Slade for the more liberal art of France, working at Pont-Aven and studying under Henri Matisse. Francis Bacon, from a younger generation of British artists, thought so highly of Smith that he said, 'He seems to me to be one of the very few English painters since Constable and Turner to be concerned with painting.'1 Dubbed the 'English Fauve', the colourful richness of his work comes from the years spent studying and later living in France. Turning from his horrendous experiences in the First World War, Smith embraced the miracle of creation and regeneration, choosing the nude female figure and nature's bounteous fruitfulness found in flowers and fruits as the chief means through which to express his ideas. Fine examples are Nude with Pearl Necklace c.1930 in Adelaide's Carrick Hill collection and Roses 1927 in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia with their characteristic predominance of red. The persuasive forcefulness and vigorous directness of his paintings owes much to his use of an alla prima technique. Allowing him to work very quickly, its passion and energy is infectious. Green Apples is a characteristic work painted in his mature Expressionist style. A master of the tactile, textures are richly felt, married to a confidence of handling that immediately engages the viewer with the artist's own intuitive response to the motif. The bravura handling offers a sumptuous and sensuous celebration of paint and colour. The high viewpoint is typical, as found in other still life subjects such as Whaddon Flowers 1928 in the Art Gallery of New South Wales. For Smith, colour is both form and passion, especially in his use of the primaries of red and green, transforming the humble subject into a visual tour de force. Another, Apples in a Dish 1919, is in the Tate Gallery, London. A major figure in twentieth century British art, Smith held his first solo exhibition at London's Mayor Gallery in 1926.
Twice represented at the Venice Biennale in 1938 and 1950, a major retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Tate Gallery in 1953, followed by a knighthood in 1954. London's Royal Academy honoured Smith with a memorial exhibition in 1960, the selection of his finest works including our painting. Another major retrospective was held at London's Barbican Art Gallery in 1983.

1. Quoted in Gale, I., 'Sir Matthew Smith, The Barbican, London', The Independent, London, 21 June 1995