# 43316

URE SMITH, Sydney (1887-1949)

Sydney Ure Smith, publisher and artist : autograph letter, signed, with two pencil sketches. December, 1943.

  • Sold

Manuscript in ink, 4 pp., octavo notepaper (205 x 130 mm) with the letterhead of the Society of Artists, 166 Phillip Street, Sydney; dated Dec. 29 1943, the letter is a private one addressed to Ure Smith’s friend, ‘Dear Colonel Welch’; it includes two pencil sketches by Ure Smith, the first (at the head of the first page) is a beautiful portrait of Ure Smith’s cat, and is captioned ‘To Colonel Welch from Peter the Cat’; the second (at the foot of the second page) is a sketch of a garbage collector delivering Ure Smith’s books that illustrates a hilarious anecdote in the artist’s letter, which is signed at the foot ‘Yours sincerely, Sydney Ure Smith’; light original horizontal folds, preserved in very fine condition.

Sydney Ure Smith (1887-1949), publisher and artist, was a doyen of the Sydney art world for several decades. He was also a trustee of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales (1927-47) and president of the Society of Artists (1921-48). In this hitherto unpublished letter to a friend (an American?) on active duty in Queensland, Ure Smith’s tone is chatty and informal. Nevertheless, the letter touches on some serious subjects, and contains a number of references to the Australian art scene (in particular, to Margaret Preston and Douglas Annand), to Ure Smith’s publishing ventures, and to his own artistic endeavours:

… In the art world, there has been an interesting show at David Jones auditorium with Margaret Preston’s coloured woodcuts – which were much appreciated by your countrymen … Both Gwen Spencer and I have been getting the last of our 1943 books out. Fortunately we just about did it. But it was an unseemly rush, our printer’s lorry broke down and could not be mended till after the New Year. Finally they called on the services of a garbage man who had a cart and two small boys – but the spectacle of our expensive and exotic books being delivered all round the city by the garbage man was too much for me – I called on my friend Charles Lloyd Jones [Ure Smith’s brother-in-law] and asked if David Jones’ carts could come to the rescue. This was done, willingly, and the situation was saved. I had intended to use my time during the holidays to sketch but found, when it came to the point – I lacked the desire to draw. Perhaps I’ve “out-drawn” the surrounding subjects near my flat – and I hesitate in ringing people up to use their house to sketch from, for they always say certainly, come any time you like and invariably I arrive in the middle of a party – or preparations for same – or I get so interested I have to be asked for a meal, which involves extra trouble, whereas if allowed I’d prefer to sit at window or garden and munch a sandwich without interrogation … Have you ever called in at the Carnegie Special Art Library in Brisbane – I believe they have an excellent collection of prints & books on art given by the Carnegie Corporation. I saw some really good watercolour drawings of “Up North” by Douglas Annand recently – I am so keen about them, I am going to try to publish them in a book on his work if I can secure sufficient paper for the job. [Note: Ure Smith did indeed manage to find the paper required, and edited and published in Sydney in 1944 Drawings and paintings in Australia / Douglas Annand]. The war has taken our artists to remote places in Australia, that otherwise would not have been recorded – for as a rule the artist settles down to draw or paint what is around him – and doesn’t travel about seeking fresh subject matter ….’