Luxury cruise 1972-73 signed 'JEFFREY SMART' lower left oil on canvas 76.0 x 89.0cm (29 15/16 x 35 1/16in).
PROVENANCE Niagara Galleries, Melbourne The Reg Grundy AC OBE and Joy Chambers-Grundy Collection, acquired in 1990
EXHIBITED Jeffrey Smart, Rudi Komon Gallery, Sydney, 30 November 31 December 1973, cat. no. 1
LITERATURE Elizabeth Riddell, 'A painter of the century', The Australian, 10 December, 1973, p. 12 Gay Richardson, 'One man's view of today', The Daily Telegraph, 15 December, 1973 Peter Quartermaine, Jeffrey Smart, Gryphon Books, Melbourne, 1983, cat. no. 611 John McDonald, Jeffrey Smart: Paintings of the '70s and '80s, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1990, p. 73, pl. 9 (illus.) Barry Pearce, Jeffrey Smart, Beagle Press, Sydney, 2005, p. 119 (illus.), 254
Luxury Cruise belongs to a time when Jeffrey Smart had just completed the purchase of Posticcia Nuova, the old farm-house near Arezzo where he would settle for the rest of his life. It was a time when he began to establish himself as a painter, finding a style and subject that has made him an iconic figure in Australian art.
Part of the appeal of Smart's work is his ability to instill a sense of mystery into the most deadpan, everyday scenes. The idea of a luxury cruise conjures up a sense of glamour, but there is nothing marvellous in the image of a bald-headed, middle-aged man in sunglasses who leans on the railing of a ship, staring back at the fixtures and tiled edges of an on-board swimming pool.
The 'luxury' represented by the pool appears rather tawdry on a cold day. The same might be said about the row of small, coloured light bulbs that run along the underside of the railing. Smart is observing that our frantic search for luxuries and pleasures is doomed to end in disappointment. The cruise is a holiday, an interval into which we cram as much enjoyment as possible. When we get off the boat this artificial paradise will be exchanged for the remorseless routines of work.
None of this would be admitted by the artist, who prefers to discuss his paintings in purely formal terms. But Smart's deadpan façade is the mask for a keen, critical intelligence and a dry sense of humour. The man with the glasses who stares at the pool fixtures as if they were works of modern sculpture, is also staring through them and out of the painting. We can't see his eyes because of the sunglasses, but he bears a vague resemblance to Smart himself. It is a picture of the artist looking at us looking at him. For both painter and viewer the adventure of art is a luxury cruise, with the same cruel mixture of excitement and disappointment.