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Frans Smit

Artist Spotlight

The captivating paintings of Frans Smit reimagine the Old Masters and bring them back to life by boldly contrasting them with modern techniques. This carefully balanced meeting of current and traditional media on the canvas allows him to formulate a new visual language that reaches both into the past and the future.


The South African born painter started out by studying science, then became a photographer until a friendship with Lucian Freud led him to painting.

We interviewed the artist to learn more about his journey and his work. 


Q. Did you always want to be an artist?

A. When I was younger, I was very interested in science. I went to University and studied science for two years. I then realized I rather wanted to study a more creative field. 

So I ended up studying photography. I’ve always been fascinated by art shops; looking at the paints and feeling the brushes. After my studies, I moved to London for a few years. There I befriended Lucian Freud - he was my main reason for becoming an artist.

Q. What drew you to the Old Masters?

A. I was in London in 2016 as part of a group of South Africans taking part in an exhibition at Tanya Baxter Gallery. One day, I went around London visiting galleries and it was there that I saw the work of the Miaz brothers. It was just so inspiring. I thought that’s brilliant: to use Old Masters as a reference, the options are endless!

Q. Does your background as a photographer influence your work?

A. Yes definitely, It helps me understand light. Light is such an important aspect of painting. It also helps me to take my photographs which I can reference in my work and use to document it.

Q. How did you arrive at your signature hybrid of current and past art movements?

A. I think I just tried to do something different and fresh. Whenever I get the chance to travel, I first visit all the galleries and hang out with the masters. I do love to paint realistically, but the abstract always pushes through. I thought it would be great to express this by combining realism and abstract techniques in my art pieces.

I think the main objective of art is to move the viewer, whether in a good or bad way. We all know what we like. The art needs to speak to the viewer.

Q. What would you like your work to evoke in the viewer?

A. Probably to be uncomfortable. I’ve had someone tell me once that I don’t like women, because of a disrupted portrait.

Q. What other creatives inspire you?

A. My favorite artists are Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, and Frank Auerbach, so you can see where the distortion of the portrait is coming from. During the lockdown, I watched the documentary on Julian Schnabel; I found that very inspiring. While I work I mostly listen to classical music, I find that calms me down and sets a nice mood for working.

Q. Could you describe your work in three words?

A. Bright, colorful, and bright.


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