Jeffrey Smart

Learning Resource

A painting of Jeffrey Smart's self portrait on canvas stretched over a frame propped against a wall behind a still life with pears, an egg, and a shell. On the right hand side a pink and white building sits against a dark sky and a woman with an umbrella walks away.

Jeffrey Smart
Self-portrait, Procida


Self-portrait, Procida
1950–51 Ischia, Italy and Tarntanya/Adelaide
oil on canvas
35 x 50 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 2016
© The Estate of Jeffrey Smart

Jeffrey Smart was inspired by the poetry of TS Eliot. The opening lines of the poem ‘Burnt Norton’ in TS Eliot’s Four Quartets (1943) are:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.

In this self-portrait, Smart looks out intently at the viewer as a young, determined artist. His portrait is a painting within a painting, memorialising his time spent on the Italian island of Procida.

What do you see in Smart’s painting, Self-Portrait, Procida? Notice what is in the foreground, middle ground and background.

How would you describe the genre of this work? It is titled a self-portrait, but could it be a still life, a landscape painting, or all three?

Reflecting on the TS Eliot poem quoted above, how has the artist created a sense of time passing?

Think about the still life objects in the foreground. What could they symbolise?

Notice the second figure in the painting. How has the artist presented this person? What makes you curious about them?

In Japanese culture, haiku poems are unrhymed, consist of 12 syllables and are arranged in three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Try your hand at writing a haiku in response to Self-Portrait, Procida. Share your poem with your class.

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From the Audio Tour:

In this self-portrait Smart looks out intently at the viewer, as a young, determined artist. His portrait is a painting within a painting – tacked to a frame behind a still-life arrangement. Here, Smart memorialises the past in the present reflecting on his time on the Italian island of Procida, where he stayed before he returned to Australia in 1951 after nearly three years abroad. The work embodies his affection for Italy, anticipating his permanent return in 1964.