Jeffrey Smart

Learning Resource

A painting of a simple children's playground in a courtyard between buildings. A child hangs of a metal frame at the front and another child stands beside a slide in the background

Jeffrey Smart
Playground (Children playing)


Playground (Children playing)
1951 Gadigal Country/Sydney
oil on canvas
60 x 76 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased with the assistance of James Agapitos OAM and Ray Wilson OAM 2007
© The Estate of Jeffrey Smart

Jeffrey Smart said about his painting practice:

‘... in the end my pictures are completely synthetic. I move things around – change the height of buildings, colours, shadows, light – to get the composition right.’

While many of Smart’s paintings appear to be accurate depictions of real scenes and landscapes, the artist plays with reality, changing different parts of the landscape to create paintings that capture our imagination.

Look closely at Playground (Children playing). Notice how the artist has composed the picture, placing the shapes, shadows and objects to create the scene. What elements has the artist emphasised to catch our attention?

If you were the artist, what parts of the painting would you move or change?

How would you describe this playground? How would you feel playing in this scene?

What would you include in your imaginary playground?

Imagine a scene in a play that uses this setting as a stage set. What characters might you encounter? What could happen in this scene?

Write a few paragraphs to describe the setting and a few lines of dialogue for this play.

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From the Audio Tour:

The subject of children at play in urban settings recurs in many of Jeffrey Smart’s works including Vacant allotment and Playground (Children playing). In both paintings children are playing in the increasingly urbanised environment of the Australian city. Smart painted this playground not long after he moved to Sydney in 1951. There he began to depart from the darker, more tonal palette characteristic of his Adelaide years and adopted lighter, brighter colours.