Bernard William Smith (1916–2011) was Australia’s most eminent twentieth century art historian and a major thinker in the humanities. His first book Place, Taste and Tradition: a study of Australian art since 1788 is a key text in Australian art history, while European Vision and the South Pacific, first published in 1960, remains a pioneering masterpiece in the art and sciences of empire, imperialism and cultural contact in the Pacific.
Smith was the president of the Australian Academy of the Humanities (1977–80), a senior academic in the Fine Arts Department at the University of Melbourne and the founding professor of the Power Institute of Fine Arts, Sydney University. During his life he published extensively on a wide variety of subjects including two memoirs, and was passionately committed to social, environmental and political concerns. In 1980 he presented the Boyer Lectures, and following his wife’s death, established the RAKA award in recognition of Indigenous artists and writers. His major books include Place, Taste and Tradition (1945); Australian Painting 1788–1960 (1962); The Boy Adeodatus (1984); The Art of Captain Cook’s Voyages, vols 1–3, with Rüdiger Joppien, (1985–7); Imagining the Pacific (1992) and Modernism’s History (1998).