Jeffrey Smart

Learning Resource

A painting of two men carrying a small boat up the beach towards an odd collection of buildings and shapes.

Jeffrey Smart


1951 Tarntanya/Adelaide
oil on plywood
68.4 x 107 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1959
© The Estate of Jeffrey Smart

Inspired by a South Australian copper mining town, Wallaroo is an atmospheric and mysterious painting. Jeffrey Smart visited Wallaroo in 1951 and made several drawings and watercolour studies. Returning to his studio, he used these studies to create a larger composition using oil paints.

What do you see taking place in this painting? Look closely at the background. What words would you use to describe this landscape?

Who do you think the two figures are? What have they been doing just before this scene? How might they be feeling?

Listen to James Rushford’s sound work, made in response to Wallaroo. How does it add to or change the scene?

Spend time listening to James Rushford’s sound work. As you listen, take a pencil and draw whatever comes to mind as you experience the sound work. Compare your drawing to Jeffrey Smart’s Wallaroo. What do you notice?

From the Audio Tour:

Music composed by James Rushford

My name is James Rushford and I am a composer/performer. I have reimagined Smart’s captivating painting Wallaroo as a melancholic organ duet constructed with a series of dyads, undulating like the ground and movement of the figures in the painting.

Smart’s Wallaroo won the Commonwealth Jubilee Art Prize in 1951. In an interview he recalled the process of gathering material for the painting: ‘I had a little sketch book, and a box of watercolours and I made a few notes … The first one was just a colour note of the yellow beach with the rusty coloured seaweed and lots of dark rocks ... While I was making this ten-minute sketch two men carried a little boat out to the water ... Then I walked along the beach and found a strange sort of breakwater. It was made of old oil drums ... In the town about half a mile away, I found two interesting old buildings ... so in they went, into the sketch book ... By now I was beginning to feel some of the charm of Wallaroo. I embarked on a more ambitious job, a largish watercolour and ink drawing ... After this last study I felt I could leave Wallaroo and return to the city and digest all the things I had seen.’