Jeffrey Smart

Learning Resource

A group of people huddle together on a train platform in front of a stormy sky. A wire fence separates the group from the front of the painting and two apartment blocks are visible behind it.

Jeffrey Smart
Waiting for the train

1969–70

Waiting for the train
1969–70 Rome, Italy
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
59 x 89 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Alcoa World Alumina Australia 2005
© The Estate of Jeffrey Smart
2005.96


‘His feeling for the urban environment that started in his childhood never left him. From the late 1970s, he was increasingly preoccupied with the notion of real and metaphorical travel, although often from oblique angles. Sometimes the actual carriers, such as trains and planes, are not shown,’ writes exhibition curator Deborah Hart.

This can be seen in Waiting for the train, where a cluster of figures wait under a stormy, grey sky. The city skyline is partially obscured by the platform, with the clouds and the waiting passengers dominating the composition.

Look at the repeated shapes in this painting. What could they symbolise?

Focus on the people on the railway platform. Where are they in relation to you, the viewer?

Why do you think Smart has made these compositional decisions?

Think of a time of day and the weather. How does this add to the atmosphere?

Do you have to wait for a bus or train or tram to get to school? What is that waiting time like for you?

Think about the compositional decisions the artist has made in this work. How does the composition create an atmosphere that communicates a sense of waiting?

Choose one of the characters on the platform and write three paragraphs about what is going on in that character’s mind while they wait. See how inventive you can be. Think about how your own mind wanders while you wait for something to happen.