Hegel’s Owl: The Life of Bernard Smith

Author:  Sheridan Palmer

Sheridan Palmer is an award winning curator and art historian and an Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne.  She has worked as an art practitioner; in painting conservation at the National Gallery of Australia and as a curator at the Ballarat Art Gallery.  Her Dean Bowen: Argy Bargy was published in 2007;  Centre of the Periphery: Three European Art Historians in Melbourne, a major study of the establishment of art history in Australia in 2008, and her biography Hegel’s Owl: The life of Bernard Smith was published by Power Publications in 2016.

She divides her time between Melbourne and Venus Bay on the South Gippsland coast.

Hegel’s Owl: The Life of Bernard Smith

Bernard Smith’s ‘brotherhood’ was to become the famous group of Australian artists called The Antipodeans, and Smith was to write their manifesto.  ‘The Antipodeans’ exhibition in 1959 was a watershed moment for Australian art.  The exhibition included work by Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd, David Boyd, John Brack, Robert Dickerson, John Perceval, Clifton Pugh and, of course, Bernard Smith.  This is just one of Smith’s significant contributions to the history of Australian art,  and one of many instances where he sought to highlight the importance of contemporary Australian art and communicate its role in society.

Palmer says, ‘Bernard was emphatic that Australian artists had to retain their autonomy, their difference’, and Bernard is someone who understood the value of a different perspective, having begun his life as a ward of the State.  He would go on to be considered the father of Australian art history.  Through years of interviews and exclusive access to Smith’s papers and library,  Palmer’s biography reveals the unique character of this exceptional man.

‘Better to make history than to write about it. What is needed is a brotherhood of some kind, compact, devoted, with a colourful title . . .’

More Information;

Press Release:Power Publications  – Power Publications – Hegel’s Owl: The Life of Bernard Smith

The Journal of Pacific History (March 2017), Peter Brunt (Book Review) – Hegel’s Owl: The Life of Bernard Smith