Jeffrey Smart

Stop 30 of 32

A bright yellow corrugated fence takes up the lower two thirds of the painting. Behind the fence a tiny figure of a man, Clive James, stands on a road bridge in front of a blue sky.

Jeffrey Smart
Portrait of Clive James

Creation date: 1991–92

Portrait of Clive James
1991–92 Tuscany, Italy
oil on canvas
109 x 90.4 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1992
© The Estate of Jeffrey Smart
Photo: AGNSW

As a portrait, this painting is unusual and, perhaps, deliberately misleading. While Australian writer and broadcaster Clive James is the subject, his portrait appears in miniature, and the viewer is instead drawn to the large yellow fence that fills most of the composition. Pressed against the foreground, the fence’s metal corrugations run left to right, creating a pattern of light and dark. These seem to mimic the optical abstractions seen in the broad planes of flat colour seen in the work of Hard-edge painters in the 1960s. Smart’s choice of vibrant yellow is perhaps a metaphor for James’ extroverted public persona.