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Western art

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La chemise jaune



Sir Matthew Smith


22 Oct 1879 - 29 Sep 1959


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.




Media category


Materials used

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.


Purchased 1953


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Sir Matthew Smith

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history


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. 17, as '1925'

Edmund Capon AM, OBE 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. 2009