Ian Fairweather (1891 - 1974)

Born in 1891, Ian Fairweather lived for much of his life as a recluse on Bribie Island, north of Brisbane. He died in 1974 at age 83. Widely regarded, especially among fellow artists, as Australia's greatest painter, Ian Fairweather's work at first glance seems obscure or unaproachable. Fairweather doesn't use bright colours, or nationalistic themes (gum trees, Ned Kelly); his paintings are contemplations of things seen or experienced, as long as twenty or thirty years earlier. These experiences were mostly in China, India and Bali. His years in China, 1930 - 33 and again in 1935, had a lasting influence on him. Fairweather learned to speak and write Chinese, and he translated literature and sometimes signed and dated in Chinese. In the 1930s and 1940s he produced exquisite oils and gouaches of villages, markets, canals and children; from 1953 he developed a wandering contemplative line, with layers, and touches of cubism, a personal calligraphy tracing a long-distant memory - now among the most prized paintings in Australian art. 'Painting is a personal thing,' he once said. 'It gives me the same kind of satisfaction that religion, I imagine, gives to some people.'

His works are represented in the National Gallery of Australia, all Australian state galleries, many regional and public galleries, the Tate Gallery, London, Leicester Art Gallery, and Ulster Museum, Belfast.