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date: 22 August 2019

Purves Smith, Peter (Charles Roderick)locked

(b Melbourne, March 26, 1912; d Melbourne, July 23, 1949).
  • Mary Eagle


(Charles Roderick)

(b Melbourne, March 26, 1912; d Melbourne, July 23, 1949).

Australian painter and writer. He left the Royal Australian Naval College without graduating at the end of 1929. Some years spent as a farmhand ended when his father committed suicide in 1932. After a few years spent in sport and travelling, at his sister’s suggestion he attended the Grosvenor Art School in London in 1935–6. He returned to Melbourne and studied at the school run by George Bell, where he became a close friend of Russell Drysdale, who like Purves Smith did not have to work for a living and experienced leisure not as freedom but rather as a cause for self-doubt.

Purves Smith painted cosmopolitan and country life. The sources of his style were in contemporary European art, but his interpretation was personal and consciously Australian. Surrealist exaggeration allowed him to express humour mixed equally with savagery. His few images of the outback show figures in a dry, bare landscape. He also wrote stories in the Australian vernacular, drawing on a narrative tradition that served as a source for the deadpan style and desiccated subject-matter of such paintings as ...

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