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Mervyn Smith, Sydney Opera House

Mervyn Smith, Sydney Opera House

The Artist

Mervyn Ashmore Smith AM was born in Sydney on 11 December 1904. He initially trained as an architect and as for a time a town-planner for Newcastle but spent much of his later years in Adelaide. He was married to the notable waterclour artist and art-teacher Ruth Tuck. Best known for his watercolours, Smith held around 22 solo exhibitions between 1947 and 1988 and his work was included in a number of group exhibitions. A retrospective of his works was held at the Greenhill Art Gallery in 1988.

Smth's free -flowing wash and dynamic strokes created a vigorous style that broke through the conservatism of South Australian art in the 1950s and 160s, providing the impetus to form the then avant-garde Contemporary Art Society. The spontaneous power of his painting enabled him to continue producing new discoveries and magical creations through a long and prolific  artistic career.

Sydney Opera House 1966

The Work of Art

This work is a limited edition print (edition 106 of 122) created through a serigraph format (a silk screen printing technique). The original work which was pen and ink showed Mervyn's use of bold pen strokes that produced a highly accurate rendition of the construction of the Sydney Opera House around 1966. The concrete sales of the opera house are neatly framed by the two towering cranes either side whilst the foreground is dominated by construction equipment and engineering works. This is just one of Mervyn's studies of the Opera House's construction. Other versions were sketched by Smith from different angles including one in 1967  now in the National Gallery of Victoria and another in 1969 which is held by the Art Gallery of South Australia. Smith also created a watercolour version, created in 1965, which is that little bit moody. The heavy pen strokes give way to dark skies and a swirl of activity in the foreground. Mervyn's version of the Sydney Opera House can be compared to another print of the Sydney Opera House under construction in the University's Art Collection.  Port Jackson Scroll  by Elizabeth Rooney is a lithograph print which conveys the moodiness of Smith's watercolour along with the details of his sketches. The sepia effect provides a historical viewpoint to the subject.

Sydney Opera House 1967 Sydney Opera House 1969Sydney Opera House 1965

Port Jackson Scroll

Sydney Opera House

Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon but completed by an Australian architectural team headed up by Peter Hall, the building was formally opened on 20 October 1973[ after a gestation beginning with Utzon's 1957 selection as winner of an international design competition. The Government of New South Wales, led by the premier, Joseph Cahill, authorised work to begin in 1958 with Utzon directing construction. The government's decision to build Utzon's design is often overshadowed by circumstances that followed, including cost and scheduling overruns as well as the architect's ultimate resignation.

The building and its surrounds occupy the whole of Bennelong Point on Sydney Harbour, between Sydney Cove and Farm Cove, adjacent to the Sydney central business district and the Royal Botanic Gardens, and close by the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The building comprises multiple performance venues, which together host well over 1,500 performances annually, attended by more than 1.2 million people. Performances are presented by numerous performing artists, including three resident companies: Opera Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. As one of the most popular visitor attractions in Australia, the site is visited by more than eight million people annually, and approximately 350,000 visitors take a guided tour of the building each year.[7] The building is managed by the Sydney Opera House Trust, an agency of the New South Wales State Government.

On 28 June 2007, the Sydney Opera House became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Opera House