Jeffrey Smart

Learning Resource

The bust of a man, Hermes, is in the centre front of the painting. Behind him a a group of people play two up next to some stacked shipping containers on the beach.

Jeffrey Smart
The two-up game (Portrait of Ermes)

2006

The two-up game (Portrait of Ermes)
2006 Tuscany, Italy
oil on canvas
86.8 x 158.4 cm
TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville
Purchased 2006
© The Estate of Jeffrey Smart
2006.011


Ermes De Zan was Smart’s partner and they lived together in Tuscany, Italy, from 1975 until Smart’s death in 2013. Although Ermes acted as a model for some of Smart’s figure studies, The two-up game (Portrait of Ermes) is the only time Smart formally painted his portrait.

Notice the different elements in this painting from back to front: the setting, the freight containers, the group of people and their arrangement and the man in front of them.

List three ways Smart has created a sense of depth using perspective.

Can you imagine why Smart, who was born in Australia but lived most of his life in Italy, would have included this game in his painting?

Is this painting a story, a portrait, a landscape? How would you categorise it?

Smart did not encourage analysis of his paintings. Still, how do you think the freight containers convey meaning, if any?

Create a portrait of yourself, a friend or family member. Include an atmospheric background with objects layered in the foreground, middle ground and background. Use whatever medium you prefer – paint, coloured pastels or pencils – or layer images using Photoshop or an equivalent digital application.

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From the Audio Tour:

Jeffrey Smart and Ermes De Zan met in 1973 and lived together as a couple at Smart’s home in Tuscany, Posticcia Nuova from 1975 until Smart’s death in 2013. As Smart recalled in his 1996 autobiography Not quite straight, picking De Zan up from the town of Borgo San Sepolcro in 1975 ‘was the beginning … of the happiest time in [his] life’. He and De Zan were renowned for their generous hospitality which they extended to their many friends and guests from Australia and around the world. De Zan shared Smart’s passion for art, music and architecture and the pair travelled widely together. Although Ermes acted as a model for some of Smart’s figure studies, The two-up game (Portrait of Ermes) is the only time Smart formally painted his portrait.

Smart and De Zan lived together from 1975 until Smart’s death in 2013. His ashes are laid at Migliari Cemetery, near Posticcia Nuova.