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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Peter Sculthorpe

1982
Eric Smith

oil on canvas (frame: 150.0 cm x 215.0 cm, support: 139.0 cm x 204.0 cm)

Artist Eric Smith was born in Melbourne and worked as a graphic designer before serving in the Second World War. Afterwards, he studied painting at RMIT and began to exhibit regularly. In 1952 he moved to Sydney, where he emerged as a key exponent of abstraction. He was later a member of the group called the Sydney Nine, whose 1961 exhibitions asserted the rigour of abstract art in the context of debates about its integrity. Smith won the Archibald Prize for a third time with this portrait of his friend Peter Sculthorpe (1929–2014), the Tasmanian-born, internationally renowned composer. Inspired by Sculthorpe's music, Smith conceived of an expressive portrait to evoke the composer's creative process and started work on the painting less than three weeks before entries closed. A day before the deadline, he made drastic changes to the work, covering everything other than Sculthorpe's figure in thick orange paint. Squares of white were 'slashed' across the canvas, creating 'sheets of music exploding into the space'. Sculthorpe had the portrait on loan for a long time before the National Portrait Gallery purchased it from Smith in 2004. 'Most portraits by other artists tended to be rather dark and expressionistic,' Sculthorpe said in 2008, 'whereas Eric's painting brings in the sun … It captures my heart, my soul, my spirit, my music, everything.'

Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2004
© Estate of Eric Smith

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Eric Smith (age 63 in 1982)

Peter Sculthorpe AO OBE (age 53 in 1982)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Supported by

Basil P. Bressler (48 portraits supported)

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Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency