Cassandra

Born Ukraine 1910, lived Australia 1950–58, arrived Sydney 1965, died 1981


Before travelling to Australia in 1950, Michael Kmit studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Cracow, Poland and taught painting in Europe.

Kmit’s images, inspired by the Byzantine style of religious icon painting (c.AD 330–1453), were immediately well received in Australia for their fresh approach and new subjects. Labelled neo-Byzantine, his paintings integrated stylised portraiture with geometric forms, patterns and vivid colour.

In Sydney, shortly after arriving in 1950, Kmit met the artists James Gleeson and Paul Haefliger who were impressed with his work and introduced him to other artists including Donald Friend and Russell Drysdale. During the 1950s, before leaving for overseas travel at the latter end of the decade, Kmit was a major influence on many artists, particularly those of the Sydney Charm School.

After winning a string of awards including the Blake Prize (1953) and the Sulman Prize (1957), he left Australia. Returning in 1965 his style and format had changed and the high praise for his work was replaced with cautious criticism. However, by the time Cassandra (1979) was painted, only two years before his death, Kmit had returned to the previous vigour of his 1950s works.

Examples of Kmit’s paintings are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and many regional galleries.