Wagin, Western Australia, Australia 1916 – Pemberton, Western Australia, Australia 1981

  • England 1939-47, 1952-54

West Australian landscape 1950 Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Dimensions: 40.5 h x 50.5 w cm framed (overall) 500 h x 603 w x 40 d mm
Acknowledgement: Gift of the artist's son Mark Grey-Smith 1992
Accession No: NGA 92.264
  • Grey-Smith loved nature; to paint nature, to be in nature. In West Australian landscape he created a dynamic composition through the rhythmic arrangement of curves, circles and diagonals, and used strong yellows, greens, reds and blues to add to the energy of the design. It is an image of the trees, hills and rocks around his Darlington home – perceived through his understanding of British Modernism.

    In the school holidays, he and his wife would pack their children into the family station wagon and go bush – south in May and north in August. Grey-Smith was not a city man and was not interested in portraying the city. He grew up in the south west and when he returned to Perth, after serving in the Second World War and afterwards training to become an artist in Britain, he built a house on the Darling Scarp. Then, in 1975, he and his wife moved to live in small cottage in Pemberton among the karri forests.

    In 1957, together with Tom Gibbons, Brian McKay and Howard Taylor, he founded the Perth Group, which was influential in increasing an understanding of modernism in Perth. He explored a range of subjects including still lifes, figure studies and portraits, but he always returned to the landscape. He painted the dense karri forests of the south west, the wide expanses of the north west, and the waves crashing against the coastal cliffs; but whatever he painted he was essentially concerned with the forms, patterns and intense colours found in nature. He invested the places around him with emotional significance, maintaining: ‘all my paintings are derived directly, really directly from nature, they are realistic in so far as they have a truth to me, if it is only a truth of feeling, not visual truth, but a truth of feeling.’1

    Anne Gray

    1Guy Grey-Smith, Interview with Hazel de Berg, 29 May 1965, Hazel de Berg Collection, National Library of Australia, ORAL DeB97, (transcript of sound recording, p.4).

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002