Peter Purves-Smith, together with Russell Drysdale and Sidney Nolan, was one of a triumvirate of eminent Australian artists who emerged during the Second World War. Educated in London, Melbourne's George Bell School, and Paris, Purves-Smith assimilated the influences of his teachers while producing art of superb imaginative power and creativity.
Purves-Smith's life and artistic career was dominated by his involvement in the War. He served in West Africa and Burma, and struggled, as did most of his contemporaries, with horrendous malnutrition, disease and exhaustion. The conditions took their toll on Purves-Smith, who developed tuberculosis. Eventually repatriated to Australia, the artist married his long-term love Maisie Newbold (later to become Maisie Drysdale) in Melbourne, and the couple moved to a house in Sassafras, in the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne.
Here, Purves-Smith painted Sassafras, his last oil painting before his death from post-operative shock. An image of the view from their home, "The landscape looks eternal, green, well-planted, full of promise as it curves between low hills to a soft and distant afterglow. Maisie used to drag their guests into the cold evening air to take in this view. Peter has incorporated the corner of their house into this picture rather in the way the pioneer artist, John Glover, included his house in a thanksgiving painting - Hobart town, taken from the garden where I lived 1832 (Dixson Galleries, Sydney) the year he settled in Van Diemen's Land. Sometimes Peter said: "I am going to try to paint like the old boys." Sassafras was one such attempt."
(M. Eagle, Peter Purves Smith: A Painter in Peace and War, Sydney, n.d., p.177).