Sydney Ure Smith

Sydney George Ure Smith OBE (9 January 1887 – 11 October 1949) was an Australian arts publisher, artist and promoter who "did more than any other Australian to publicize Australian art at home and overseas".[2]

Sydney Ure Smith
Sydney Ure Smith.jpg
Sydney Ure Smith, 1948
Born(1887-01-09)9 January 1887
Died11 October 1949(1949-10-11) (aged 62)[1]
Known forpainting, publishing

Unlike most of his contemporaries, he seldom submitted his own art work for publication. He published some of 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.[3]

Early lifeEdit

He was born in London in 1887 and arrived in Australia with his parents later that same year.[4] His father John (d. 1919)[5] was manager of the Menzies Hotel, Melbourne and later of the Hotel Australia, Sydney for over 20 years. His parents adopted the form "Ure Smith": his mother (d. 1931)[6] was born Catherine Ure, but formally their surname remained Smith.[3]

He was educated at Queen's College, Melbourne and then at Sydney Grammar School.[4] He studied pencil and ink drawing at the Julian Ashton Art School (1902–07) and then learnt the techniques of etching from Eirene Mort.[3] At age 19 he helped Harry Julius and Albert Collins found the commercial art studio that later became Smith and Julius.[4]

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, Dorothy Hemphill (died 15 March 2009).[7]


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,[7] and in the same year he founded the commercial art studio and advertising firm Smith and Julius with Harry Julius, specialising in high quality artwork for prestigious clients such as Dunlop[8][9] and Berlei.[10][11] 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.[12]

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.[4]

He published Present Day Art in Australia (his son Sam Ure Smith produced a similar book, Present Day Art and Australia). He also published the Australian Art Annual and a number of book series including the Walkabout Pocketbooks[13] and the Ure Smith Miniature Series.[14]

Public lifeEdit

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 was instrumental in founding its daughter organisation, the Australian Print Collectors' Club in 1925.

He was president of the New South Wales Society of Artists in the period 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), a member of the Australian War Memorial art committee and a trustee of the New South Wales government travelling scholarship committee.[3]

From 1937 was a foundation member and vice-president of the Australian Academy of Art.[15] He was chairman of the committees for the cultural section of the Australian pavilions at New York World's Fair (1939) and the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition (1939–40). He was on the organising committee for the Art of Australia exhibition that toured North America (1941–45). He was one of the founders of the Empire-United States of America Art Trust, and a council member of the Australian Limited Editions Society. He was a frequent guest on radio programs.[3]


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.

Personal lifeEdit

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



  1. ^ "SYDNEY URE SMITH DIES". The Sydney Morning Herald (34, 885). New South Wales, Australia. 12 October 1949. p. 5. Retrieved 12 April 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ McCulloch, Alan (1968). Encyclopedia of Australian Art. London: Hutchinson & Co. ISBN 978-0-09-081420-6.
  3. ^ a b c d e Nancy D. H. Underhill. "Sydney George Ure Smith". Australian Dictionary of Biography.
  4. ^ a b c d "Death of Sydney Ure Smith". The Argus (32, 171). Victoria, Australia. 12 October 1949. p. 5. Retrieved 4 January 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "CASUALTIES". The Sydney Morning Herald (25, 560). New South Wales, Australia. 6 December 1919. p. 14. Retrieved 4 January 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "MRS. J. URE SMITH". The Sydney Morning Herald (29, 065). New South Wales, Australia. 2 March 1931. p. 13. Retrieved 4 January 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ a b "SYDNEY URE SMITH DIES". The Sydney Morning Herald (34, 885). New South Wales, Australia. 12 October 1949. p. 5. Retrieved 4 January 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "92/1390 Poster, 'Dunlop Cycle Tyres and Tubes', Smith and Julius Studios, Australia, 1930-1940 - Powerhouse Museum Collection". Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  9. ^ "92/1391 Poster, 'Dunlop Perdriau Motor Tubes', Smith and Julius Studios, Australia, 1929-1942 - Powerhouse Museum Collection". Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  10. ^ "BURDETT, Frank SMITH AND JULIUS | This new talon fastened step-in by Berlei". Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  11. ^ "BURDETT, Frank SMITH AND JULIUS | Berlei visualises a new beauty". Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  12. ^ "'The Home' magazine, cover by Ellen Gray : About New South Wales". Retrieved 4 January 2012.
    "Dunlop flooring advertisement". Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS). Retrieved 12 April 2017.
    "Magazine, 'The Home', Vol 16 No.3 March 1 1935, paper, Sydney Ure Smith, Sydney, Australia, 1935". Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS)accessdate=12 April 2017.
  13. ^ Walkabout Pocketbooks (Ure Smith) - Book Series List, Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  14. ^ Ure Smith Miniature Series - Book Series List, Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  15. ^ Australian Academy of Art (1937 - 1946): Organisation, Retrieved 23 June 2017.