The Australian writer David Malouf recalled Jeffrey Smart telling him the figure stepping off the bus in The traveller was based on the writer Vladimir Nabokov. Malouf enjoyed the irony of this Russian-born writer metaphorically travelling all the way to Brisbane, given that the painting was acquired by the Queensland Art Gallery.
Although Smart was known for using humorous references in his works, he ultimately wanted the identities of his characters to be ambiguous. As humans, we all move through the world, trying to find our way. In this work the traveller is a type, a carrier of stories.