While many British painters in the early decades of the twentieth century were drawn to the subtlety of Cézanne's technique, Matthew Smith embraced the more dramatic devices of Gauguin and Matisse. Smith spent time in the latter's Paris studio in 1910, albeit without sighting the master, and developed a personal manner based on fauvist principles of pure colour, bold simplification of form and a marked sensuousness of application. 'La chemise jaune', named for the molten yellow slip modelled by the opulent Vera Cunningham, shows Smith's gift for the disposition of fiery hues across a broadly painted composition. Fauve painting is not the exclusive predecessor of the work. Smith was well aware of Delacroix's chromatic experiments almost a century earlier. Indeed, Vera is presented for inspection in the time-honoured guise of an odalisque, in this case in vulnerable repose. The artist produced many images of her, frequently nude. Her Rubenesque roundness recalls the many representations of fruit in the artist's 'oeuvre'.
AGNSW Handbook, 1999.
oil on canvas
91.8 x 59.7 cm stretcher; 118.5 x 86.5 x 9.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.r., black paint "MS". Not dated.
Not on display
© Estate of Sir Matthew Smith
Shown in 5 exhibitions
Paintings by Matthew Smith, Mayor Gallery, London, Apr 1926–Apr 1926
Jacob Epstein, Matthew Smith, Temple Newsam House, England, 12 Jul 1942–14 Sep 1942
Paintings of various periods by Matthew Smith, Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, London, 20 Jun 1951–14 Jul 1951
Purchases and Acquisitions for 1953, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Mar 1954–04 Apr 1954
Matthew Smith - Roderic O'Conor, David Jones' Art Gallery, Sydney, Sydney, 07 Jul 1965–28 Jul 1965
Mayor Gallery, 1926, London/England
Eardley Knollys, circa 1942, England
Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, 1951, London/England
Hanover Gallery, London, 1953, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from the Hanover Gallery 1953
Referenced in 8 publications
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 44 (colour illus.).
Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, Paintings of various periods by Matthew Smith, London, 1951. cat.no. 17, as '1925'
Edmund Capon and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'European 20th Century Art', pg. 91-95, Sydney, 1984, 91.
René Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'European', pg. 36-56, Sydney, 1988, 55.
Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales catalogue of British paintings, Sydney, 1987, 180 (illus.).
Renée Free, AGNSW Collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 156, 157 (colour illus.).
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', pg. 17-77, Sydney, 1999, 58 (colour illus.).
Anne Kirker and Peter Tomory, British painting 1800–1990 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1997, 160. cat.no. 2009