Guy Grey Smith
A Briston Blenheim belonging to Guy Grey-Smith's squadron, over France in 1940.
Guy Grey-Smith (1916 - August 1981) was a Western Australian painter, printmaker and ceramicist. Grey-Smith pioneered modernism in WA, and has been described as "one of Australia's most significant artists of the 20th century".
He joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) when he was 20 and trained as a pilot. In 1937, he transferred to the British Royal Air Force (RAF) on a Short Service Commission and moved to England. He married an Englishwoman, Helen Dorothy Stanes, at Godmanchester on 19 October 1939.
After the outbreak of World War II, he served with No. 139 Squadron RAF, and flew Bristol Blenheim bombers during the Battle of France, with the rank of flying Officer. On 12th May 1940, the squadron was stationed at Plivot and undertook a mission to attack German positions near Maastricht and Tongeren, in the Netherlands. Grey-Smith's aircraft (N6219) was attacked by a messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter and caught fire. As he parachuted out of the stricken bomber, Grey-Smith was hit by the tailplane and received severe head injuries, but landed safely. He was captured and kept at Stalag Luft III as a prisoner of war. During his time as POW, Grey-Smith began to explore an interest in art, with materials sent by his wife. He contracted tuberculosis and, as a consequence, was repatriated to the UK in 1944 for treatment, which included art therapy.
In 1945, he began studying at the Chelsea School of Art. Grey-Smith attended the school until 1947, learning from Ceri Richards, Robert Medley and Henry Moore. He and Helen returned to Western Australia and set up a pottery studio at their home in Darlington.
In 1952, his tuberculosis recurred, and upon recovery eight months later, he and Helen moved back to London. He studied fresco painting at the Central School of Arts and Crafts under Louis le Brocquy until 1954.
Upon their return to Australia, Grey-Smith worked for the Education Department and Art Gallery before journeying across the Nullarbor and to the north-west of Western Australia, which inspired his work.
He died at the age of 65 from recurrence of tuberculosis, in August 1981.