Sydney Ure Smith

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Sydney George Ure Smith OBE (9 January 1887 – 11 October 1949) was an Australian arts publisher and promoter who 'did more than any other Australian to publicize Australian art at home and overseas'.[1]

He was born in London in 1887 and arrived in Australia with his parents later that same year.[2] His father (d. 1919)[3] was manager of the Menzies Hotel, Melbourne then Hotel Australia, Sydney for over 20 years. His parents adopted the form 'Ure Smith': his mother (d. 1931)[4] was born Catherine Ure, but formally their surname remained Smith.[5]

He was educated at Queen's College, Melbourne then at Sydney Grammar School.[2] He studied pencil and ink drawing at the Julian Ashton School of Art 1902–07 then learnt the techniques of etching from Eirene Mort.[5] At age 19 he helped Harry Julius and Albert Collins found the commercial art studio that later became Smith and Julius.[2]

Unlike most of his contemporaries, he seldom submitted his work for publication. He published his own work in limited edition books such as Old Sydney (1911) and Old Colonial By-Ways (1928), prompted by his passion for preserving historic buildings.[5]

Personal life[edit]

He married a fellow art student Viola Austral Quaife (granddaughter of Rev. Barzillai Quaife) in 1909. His second wife was Ethel Bickley.

He died after several years of ill health and was survived by a son from his second marriage, Sydney George 'Sam' Ure Smith (died 19 November 2013) and a daughter, Mrs. R. J. Hemphill.[6] His daughter, Dorothy Olivia Hemphill, died on 15 March, 2009.


Artistic expression to him was never more than a pleasant pastime; his real passion lay in harnessing technology to reproduce the works of others. In 1916 he founded a syndicate with Bertram Stevens and Charles Lloyd Jones to publish Art in Australia,[6] and in the same year he founded the advertising firm Smith and Julius with Harry Julius, specialising in high quality artwork for prestigious clients such as Dunlop[7][8] and Berlei.[9][10] They employed such prominent Sydney artists as James Muir Auld, Fred Britton, Frank Burdett, Harold Cazneaux, Albert Collins (who was a director from 1916–51), Roy de Maistre, Adrian Feint, George Frederick Lawrence, Percival Leason, John Passmore, Lloyd Rees, Bill Sparrow and Roland Wakelin. After 1923 he ceased active involvement with the company.

He founded magazine The Home, published monthly from February 1920–42, in the mould of Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and Vanity Fair.[11]

He founded Ure Smith Pty Ltd. in 1939, initially to publish Australian National Journal (quarterly, 1939–47). He edited books on J J Hilder, Arthur Streeton, Blamire Young, Hans Heysen, Norman Lindsay, Elioth Gruner, Margaret Preston, George Lambert, Douglas Annand, Francis Lymburner and William Dobell.[2]

He published Present Day Art in Australia (his son Sam Ure Smith produced a similar book, Present Day Art and Australia). He also published Australian Art Annual.

Public life[edit]

He led a furiously active public life: he was a foundation member (with Gayfield Shaw, Lionel Lindsay, John Shirlow, Eirene Mort, David Barker, Albert Henry Fullwood, John Barclay Godson, and Bruce Robertson) of the 'Australian Painter-Etchers Society' in 1920 (and almost certainly instrumental in founding its daughter organisation the 'Australian Print Collectors' Club' in 1925).

He was president of the New South Wales Society of Artists from 1921–47. He was a trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales 1927–47 (and vice-president 1943–47, supporting the controversial 1943 Archibald Prize going to William Dobell for his portrait of Joshua Smith).

He was on the Advisory Committee for Applied Art 1925-31, the Australian War Memorial art committee and the New South Wales government travelling scholarship committee.

He was vice-president of the Australian Academy of Art 1937, and chairman of the committee organising the arts component of Australia's 1939 World's Fair pavilion in New York and the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition 1939-40. He was on the organising committee for the Art of Australia touring exhibition in North America 1941-45. He founded the Empire - USA Art Trust, and a council of the Australian Limited Editions Society. He was a frequent guest on radio programs.


He was awarded the New South Wales Society of Artists medal in 1931. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1937.


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Australian Art Alan McCulloch, Hutchinson & Co. London 1968
  2. ^ a b c d "''The Argus'' 12 October 1949". 1949-10-12. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  3. ^ "''Sydney Morning Herald'' 6 December 1919". 1919-12-06. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  4. ^ "''Sydney Morning Herald'' 2 March 1931". 1931-03-02. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  5. ^ a b c Nancy D. H. Underhill. "Biography - Sydney George Ure Smith - Australian Dictionary of Biography". Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  6. ^ a b "''Sydney Morning Herald'' 12 October 1949". 1949-10-12. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  7. ^ "92/1390 Poster, 'Dunlop Cycle Tyres and Tubes', Smith and Julius Studios, Australia, 1930-1940 - Powerhouse Museum Collection". Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  8. ^ "92/1391 Poster, 'Dunlop Perdriau Motor Tubes', Smith and Julius Studios, Australia, 1929-1942 - Powerhouse Museum Collection". Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  9. ^ "BURDETT, Frank SMITH AND JULIUS | This new talon fastened step-in by Berlei". Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  10. ^ "BURDETT, Frank SMITH AND JULIUS | Berlei visualises a new beauty". Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  11. ^ "'The Home' magazine, cover by Ellen Gray : About New South Wales". Retrieved 2012-01-04.