Bernard Smith

The editors begin their introduction to Antipodean Perspective with some ground clearing: ‘The putting together of a series of responses to an important scholar’s work is a classic academic exercise. It is undoubtedly a worthy, but also necessarily a selective undertaking. In German it is called a Festschrift

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A persistent fascination attaches to those who help break the new wood, and so it is with Bernard Smith (1916–2011). His contribution is foundational to the study of the arts in Australia. Smith was for more than sixty years the country’s leading art historian, but he was also an educator, curator, newspaper critic, collector, memoirist, and biographer. Even as ...

It’s a Proustian title, or at any rate a Powellian one, that Bernard Smith has produced for this memoir of his life in the long-ago 1940s, and, yes, there on the cover is Anthony Powell’s hero, Poussin. That’s doubly appropriate because one of the more vivid figures (though also one of the more saturnine ones) in this remembrance of things past is Anthony Blunt, great scholar of Poussin’s work, master spy, eminent director of the Courtauld and critical educator of the Young Bernard.

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Australian Painting 1788–2000 by Bernard Smith, with Terry Smith and Christopher Heathcote

by
April 2002, no. 240

Bernard Smith gave us Australian art. Before him, the subject was not part of our cultural discourse. We knew and could place the work of Michelangelo and Monet but not that of Eugene von Guérard, Tom Roberts or Grace Cossington Smith.

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This is one of the most satisfying and fascinating monographs on an Australian artist that I have read. Only Franz Philipp’s monograph on Arthur Boyd can be compared to it, and for quite other reasons. Catalano, lucidly and meticulously, unravels the complex physical and intellectual life of Rick Amor from the time of his boyhood. He discloses how Amor’s paintings depend on his ability to make his past the vehicle and inspiration of his creative achievements. It is a reflexive art embodying the omnipresent power of a memory touched with a redolent melancholy. His past is revealed as a strange presence that is not to be found in the work, in my experience, of any other Australian artist.


 

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As the one hundred and sixteen years of their control of the Exhibition Building ends, its Trustees have prepared this splendid account of their stewardship. From diverse perspectives David Dunstan, who teaches public history at Monash University, and fifteen associates, demonstrate how deeply the building has entered into the everyday lives of Victorians. Dunstan b ...

This is nothing less than a magisterial achievement. Joan Kerr and her collaborators (some 128 women and forty-eight men) have documented ‘500 works by 500 Australian Women Artists from Colonial Times to 1955’ to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of International Women’s Year. Simultaneously with its publication exhibitions of Australian women’s art are being held at 127 venues throughout Australia. Both the book and the exhibitions are a monument to the energy, enthusiasm, and efficiency of Joan Kerr and her team of honorary fellow workers.

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At the conclusion of the fascinating essay ‘Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner and Cook’s Second Voyage’ in his recently published book Imagining the Pacific: In the Wake of the Cook Voyages, Bernard Smith writes:

The most carefully planned and the most scientifically and efficiently conducted expedition ever made up to its time in the realm of reality provided the poet with a world of wonder and a nucleus of recollections from whence emerged in its own good time the most romantic voyage ever undertaken in the realm of the imagination.

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The chapter explores the influence of William Wales on the young Coleridge when he was a student at Christ’s Hospital, London, Wales, the scientist-navigator who travelled with Cook on the Resolution, was appointed Master of Mathematics at Christ’s Hospital in 1775 and Smith, in this engaging essay, argues that the young Coleridge would have heard the stories of their momentous journey in search of the great South Land. For not only was Wales a teacher of mathematics but his job also included drumming up midshipmen recruits from the Lower School for the Royal Navy. He was ideally suited for this – a man of great stature and intellect who could deliver an exhilarating first-hand account of what it was like to be pushing to the very frontiers of knowledge through maritime exploration.

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In his 1980 bibliography of Bernard Smith’s published works, Australian Art and Architecture (1980), Tony Bradley lists, exclusive of books, well over 200 articles, book reviews, and other miscellaneous items. Allowing for articles written after 1980 and four previously unpublished, The Critic as Advocate contains sixty works from Bradley’s list. Previous collections of Smith’s essays, The Antipodean Manifesto (1976) and The Death of the Artist as Hero (1988) each contains about twenty republished essays – leaving Smith still with over a hundred for future recycling. If this is to be the case it is perhaps well to look at the value or otherwise of this type of enterprise.

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