© The Artist's Estate


Sir Matthew Smith (1879 – 1959)


101.5 X 76 CM
Accession number


After short period of study at Manchester School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art in London, Smith lived in Brittany in France for nine months in 1908, he recorded of this stay that ‘Here my life began’. He also studied for a month in Paris at Matisse’s art school just before its closure. This has led to Smith being called an ‘English Fauve’, but it is a misleading description. Smith’s working method was to paint directly from his subject, drawing the main design in thin paint, effecting a unique balance between line and colour. The amazing brightness of Smith’s colour and his rapid and obvious brushwork linked him to the French Fauve artists, for example Matisse, Friesz and Derain, but Fauvism often appeared to stress the means of painting, the techniques of laying colour down with verve, more than the measured concern with the subject matter, and with linear design. Smith often remarked of his reputation as a colourist first and foremost – ‘They all praise the colour, you know, but there is something else, I think.’

something else was to found in the artists he most admired – Ingres, Matisse, Gauguin and Cezanne – and in his own work after the initial brilliance of the colour harmonies had been assimilated. This is evident in the composition of Fitzoy Street Nude No 2, when the truncated corner of a painting in the top-right corner of the canvas sets up formal relationships and helps to reinforce the importance to Smith of the construction of the composition. This is a painting of a nude in Smith’s London attic studio at 2 Fitzroy Street and is the second version of the subject. Fitzroy Street Nude No 1 (Tate collection shows the same model in the same pose but from a view to the left. It is a smaller canvas with a less complex pictorial design. It is generally acknowledged that Matthew Smith’s art reached its maturity with these two Fitzroy Street nudes, No. 2 being especially magisterial in its mixture of authoritative draughtsmanship and vigorous, bold colour relationships.

A selection of paintings and sculpture: The British Council Collection, The British Council 1984