Joshua Smith at The Royal Art Society
Through Julian, Howard and Richard Ashton my family has had a long history with the Royals and I was delighted to be invited to open the Joshua Smith exhibition at their gallery.
The President, Judy Pennefather FRAS, together with her wise committee of Fellows and the stalwart Secretary, Christine Feher, provide the members, of which I am proud to be one, with an ongoing legacy of inspired leadership in the art world.
It is my belief that art societies in Australia are important, not just for the fellowship they provide for artists, but also for the articulate voice they provide on behalf of their profession. If you sought justice in a court of law, received an adverse decision and subsequently discovered that the judge and your wise counsel had never studied law, you would be indignant. Artists entering competitions sometimes experience this. Societies are made up of fine art practitioners. As such they are, in my opinion, the best judges of art. Without wishing to lessen the importance of academics and gallery directors, who are a vital part of the equation, I think there is a strong desire among artists to be judged by their peers.
Yve Close was a lifelong friend and colleague of the late Joshua Smith. Having published a book on his life and organised several exhibitions of his work, it was by Yve’s inspiration that an exhibition was celebrated this year by the Sydney cultural icon, The Royal Art Society of New South Wales, of which he had been a proud Fellow. The exhibition was entitled “Unsung Master” – and a master of painting and drawing he certainly was. Joshua was trained at the Julian Ashton Art School, where his significant contemporary was William Dobell. The famous court case which resulted from the contesting of the Trustees decision to award The Archibald Prize to a portrait of Joshua by Dobell tragically had a long term traumatic effect on both the artist and the sitter.
It was Yve Close and her husband John who assisted Joshua Smith with unfailing support to enable him to go on to enjoy a notable career as an artist and teacher. He was a frequent visitor to Ashton’s and I have fond memories of those occasions and our long discussions about artists and art.