Born at Kingsbridge, Devon, his studies were with F J Snell (1896), then at Plymouth College of Art (1897), Royal College of Art (1899) and under Julius OLSSON in St Ives (1913). The artist returned to St Ives after serving in the army in WWI and his drawings of the Western Front were purchased by the Imperial War Museum. He married Irene Godson in 1917, settled in St Ives (1919), and worked from The Cabin, 1 Porthmeor Studios and the Ocean Wave Studio (1929). In 1935 he was one of the St Ives group commissioned to do a poster, based on an aerial view, of St Ives for tourism purposes. He also designed another for the Southern Railway, and many others.
Though now he is mainly regarded as a coastal artist, his industrial and architectural drawings after WWI are among his most accomplished work (Wormleighton). The couple moved to Salcombe, Devon, in 1926, but returned to St Ives the following year. In 1929 he published a book on the technique of painting seascapes. In 1934-36, Peter LANYON was his pupil.
Works displayed at Newlyn included two studies of St Ives, The Steel Works, Lincoln; The Nitrate Works, Plymouth; The Old 'Implacable' in Dry Dock (1929) and Land's End (1937). During WWII he designed propaganda posters for the Royal Navy.
In the RCM, Truro are two of his coastal landscapes, Morning Light, St Ives (1922), and Cornish Cliffs, Zennor (1923).
Borlase Smart was instrumental in his final year of life in securing a permanent home for the St Ives Society of Arts in the Mariner's Church, St Ives. In 1949, a group of St Ives' artists banded together to become members of the Penwith Society, as a tribute to him. These included Herbert Read, Barbara HEPWORTH, Peter LANYON, Shearer ARMSTRONG, G R DOWNING, Bernard LEACH, Denis MITCHELL, Ben NICHOLSON, Misome PEILE, and Philip KEALEY. In that final year, his portrait was painted by the sculptor Allan G WYON.
In West Cornwall today, as administered by the Tate Galleries, are the artists' studios in both St Ives and Newlyn, carrying the joint name of the Borlase Smart-John WELLS Trust. These have been renovated to a high standard, and are made available to artists upon application.