(William) Joshua Smith (b. 1905 March 12, Sydney, NSW; d 1995 July 22, Sydney). Known as Joshua Smith, or 'Josh’ to his friends. Traditional painter in oils, and a teacher.

Not to be confused with Josh Smith, a modern New York (USA) artist.


Smith is best known for his portraits, but also created many still life and landscape paintings. His career as a portrait painter was interrupted by World War II, during which he worked as a camouflage artist with Douglas Annand , James Cook, William Dobell , Adrien Feint , Donald Friend , and Robert Emerson Curtis who was their foreman.. From 1967 to 1972, Smith taught portraiture at the Royal Art Society of NSW. He became dissatisfied and left to set up his own school at Lane Cove. Most of his students followed him.. Soon afterward, he appointed his former student Yve Close as assistant teacher. After Smith died in 1995, the school continued for ten years under Close’s direction, until family illness caused her to close it.


Smith studied drawing and painting with E.M. Smith and sculpture with Rayner Hoff at East Sydney Technical College; drawing and painting at Sydney Art School (now The Julian Ashton Art School), briefly with Julian Ashton , and eight years with Henry C. Gibbons. From 1937 he studied drawing with Adelaide Perry.


Early and life-long influences were George Washington Lambert , W.B. McInnes, Sir William Orpen and Augustus John. Smith’s sketch- and note-books indicate immense lifelong interest in many artists, such as the old masters Rembrandt, Velazquez, El Greco, Hals and Ribera; and, from the late 1960s, contemporary artists such as Gris and Picasso; and many more. French Impressionists and post-Impressionists broadened Smith’s attitude, especially C├ęzanne (with landscape) and Lautrec (with portraiture). Australian artist Ivor Hele , who became a friend about 1967, had a strong and lasting influence on Smith’s work.

Painting Style

Smith’s style was traditional, using artists’-quality oils on canvas or hardboard. His preliminary work, at the commencement of a portrait, consisted of a pencil or oil sketch, at times using Chinese White or white chalk on black or brown paper. Smith then enlarged this study to the desired size, using the grid system. Some landscape and still life paintings were approached similarly.When painting on hardboard, he sometimes glued on additional lengths or widths in order to expand the composition. One painting, a finalist in the 1977 Archibald prize, consisted of eleven joined pieces.

He used the following colours, arranged on his palette from left to right: French Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Viridian, Cadmium Green, White (Titanium, Flake or Permalba), Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Transparent Gold Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Terra Rosa, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, and Ivory Black. In earlier paintings he used Chrome Yellow instead of Cadmium Yellow Pale. He introduced Rowney Rose for floral studies and women’s garments.

Typical signature: Joshua Smith in script letters, with the last two digits of the year underneath. (e.g. Joshua Smith 86). For several years from 1938, he signed some paintings Josh, Joshua or J.S., still using the last two digits of the year


Smith’s known works include 543 oils, from c. 1924 to 1995; 179 major drawings, five linocuts, and three portrait sculptures. Numerous previously unknown works in private collections have come to light since 1995. He was a finalist in the Archibald Prize 45 times, having entered a total of 65 portraits.

He is represented in the National Gallery of Australia and the National Portrait Gallery, the National Library, Australian War Memorial, and Federal Parliament, Canberra; the Art Gallery of New South Wales; the Art Gallery of South Australia; Queensland Art Gallery; Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (Launceston, Tasmania); Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (NSW); Rockhampton Art Gallery (Qld); the University of Western Australia, and numerous corporate and private collections. He was represented in the Art of Australia Exhibition sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation and the Museum of Modern Art, shown widely in the USA and Canada.


Awards included: 1937, the Sydney Sesquicentenary Prize for 'Best Drawing in any Medium’; 1944, the Archibald Prize; 1962, the Blue Mountains City Art Prize; 1988, The Royal Agricultural Society Easter Show Exhibition, Portrait Section (for portrait of Lloyd Rees, now in Bathurst Regional Art Gallery); 1985, Peter Sparks Memorial Pastel Award; and 1988, Highly Commended in the Doug Moran Portrait Competition.

Smith was an exhibiting member of the NSW Society of Artists from 1930, a Fellow of the Royal Art Society of NSW from 1953, and a member of Drummoyne Municipal Art Society (now Drummoyne Art Society).


Smith was unmarried. For most of his adult life, he lived alone in his parental home in Earlwood (Sydney).

Smith had a long association with artist Yve Close. She commenced studies with him in 1973 at his Lane Cove School and, within one year, Smith appointed her as assistant teacher. Under his guidance, they painted murals in a Balmain church which led to her becoming his associate and painting partner, a partnership which lasted for 20 years. During his final illness Close, together with her family, took care of him.

Rost, F.W.D
Close, Yve
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