Mervyn Smith, who was born in Sydney, attended the Newcastle School of Art, and completed his Diploma of Architecture in Sydney in 1933. He also studied for a time at the South Australian School of Art, and for many years held a Government position as a town planner. Smith, who came to live in South Australia in 1946, gradually won recognition as one of Australia's pre-eminent watercolourists, receiving a series of awards for both watercolour and drawing, often exhibiting with his wife, Ruth Tuck.

Smith's free-flowing wash and dynamic strokes created a vigorous style that broke through the conservatism of South Australian art in the 1950s and 1960s, providing the impetus to form the then avant garde Contemporary Art Society. The spontaneous power of his painting enabled him to continue producing new discoveries and magical creations throughout a long and prolific artistic career.

SUNFLOWERS, 1983, is an example of how Smith continued to be influenced by his architectural training. The bold and expressive design owes much to his fundamental knowledge of structural draughting skills.

This work is typical of Smith's broad, vigorous handling of watercolour, which exploits the texture of his heavy paper. Full, rich colour, splashed on a thick surface, creates a work of dazzling vitality as the blooms respond to the life-giving powers of light and heat. Their fulfilment in being absorbed by the spirit of the sun reflects the feelings and sensitivity which the artist projected into his work.