The Artist

A singular voice in traditional, minimal and abstract art - a painter whose work blends eastern and western traditions.

Over more than 35 years, Tony Smibert AM has drawn on both European and Asian painting techniques to create acrylic wash and watercolour landscapes and abstracts of singular brilliance.

Smibert became a world-renowned expert on the work of British Romantic painter JMW Turner and an exponent of 18th and 19th century watercolour techniques, before breaking with the strictures of that tradition by studying and blending elements of Eastern brush and ink painting. Ultimately he departed from both such methods by developing his own form of acrylic wash on canvas. The results are large-scale paintings that register the rugged forms of the remote Tasmanian landscape conveyed in striking monotone hues that accentuate the contours and textures of stony escarpments and the tempestuous weather fronts that sweep across the island.

As a life-long practitioner of the Japanese martial art Aikido, Smibert is invested in the principle of Shuhari, being the three stages of ‘defending’, ‘breaking’ and ‘departing’ from the conventions of traditional practices.

Tony Smibert continues to make a vital contribution to Australian landscape painting through his unique artistic trajectory, his ability to modify and synthesise traditional techniques and media and his acute articulation of land and sea as conduits to spiritual experience.  

Damian Smith: Curator


Tony’s work

Recent scholarly articles.


By Dr Damian Smith, Secretary AICA Australia (International Association of Art Critics, UNESCO sponsored)

PRELUDE (to the American edition)

There is a plaque in the Granary Burying Ground in Boston, Massachusetts commemorating the unmarked grave of artist John Smibert (1688-1751). This is unsurprising when one learns that Smibert was the first portrait painter of distinction to earn a living in Colonial America, and was proprietor of what is arguably the first American art gallery, opening in 1734.

Smibert’s paintings open windows into that waning period of Baroque colonial society, in the lead up to the American Revolutionary War prior to the formation of the United States of America. As a migrant to the Americas, Smibert arrived with a decidedly European aesthetic, yet there is something in those fresh-faced, eager-eyed sitters that signal that something was different; Smibert’s subjects are not the pampered aristocrats of the Old World, but the adventurous pioneers of the new!

A century later and in another branch of the Smibert clan, that same sense of renewal encouraged migration to the even more distant colonies in Australia. It is in this antipodean branch that we find the subject of this monograph, the contemporary Australian painter Tony Smibert. Like his Baroque portrait painter ancestor,

Tony Smibert is an artist who has explored the crossing and mingling of contrasting worlds – the Old World techniques of Romantic watercolour painting, the ancient Eastern traditions of Zen and Taoist brush painting, and the possibilities that a hybrid sensibility might enable.



By Jonathan Bowden

Protolandscapes by Tony Smibert

It is the coldest day yet of the Tasmanian Autumn and I find myself driving through Deloraine at 8 in the morning on my way to meet Tony Smibert and his wife Carmel Burns for breakfast. Snow has fallen along the Western Tiers during the night and little transparent puffs of mist and cloud are chasing their shadows along the ridges as I turn off from the Mole Creek Road, into the ordered tranquillity of the Smibert house and garden. Tony is on the phone in his studio as I arrive but leaps out of the door to greet me, and we walk straight through his office with its cases of Japanese kimonos, gold framed paintings, and half opened boxes of 200 year old watercolour pans, and into his studio.

It is a year since I have visited, and he is eager to show me what he has been doing. He has told me something of what to expect. He has been thinking of Malevich's black square and exploring this highly formal notion in a much bolder way than he has worked before, influenced also by Jackson Pollock and American Abstraction, themes he started working on at a large scale about four years ago. Using jet black acrylic paint on large square white canvases he has been producing a great number of what I can only call 'Protolandscapes'.

Sometimes these are just a line or a series of lines wandering across the centre of a white panel, turning into a brushstroke and vanishing again; sometimes layer after layer of washing out and repainting to produce something surprisingly close to his watercolour landscapes. Peaks, mists, troughs in the ground where water settles. What brush is he using? A yard broom. Yes; of course. Why not? Some of the paintings resemble etchings or dry points and, as I look at them I find it hard to think of them as being by the same hand that produces luminous watercolours only a handspan wide and employing the full gamut of romantic imagery; turbulent skies, distant waterfalls, mountains and wheeling birds.


Teaching and Publications

Tony Smibert regularly shares his extensive knowledge of painting through masterclasses, workshops, books and other publications.

In recent times these have included professional development seminars, lectures, workshops and masterclasses at museums including Tate Britain, The National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria and Art Gallery of South Australia, art societies and other groups.


​Tony sets aside a few weeks each year to offer private tutorials for individual artists or small groups at our Deloraine studio.

To apply please contact us.

Art from Aikido

Aikido is a Japanese martial art.  One of its core principles is to strive for harmony: with life, art and nature.
It's a perfect complement to painting, and particularly with liquid media such as watercolours and acrylics.

More information coming soon


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