Three faces

Born Scotland 1891, arrived Australia 1934, died Brisbane, Queensland 1974


Considered one of Australia’s greatest abstract painters, Ian Fairweather led a life of extraordinary adventure and innovation. He served in both world wars and was imprisoned in prisoner of war camps from which he attempted escape several times. Following World War I he travelled extensively in Europe, Japan, south-east Asia and China. He studied art in Holland, at the Slade School in London, and the art and languages of Japan and China at the London School of Oriental Studies.

On trips made to Australia during 1934 and 1945, Fairweather stayed in Melbourne where he met and mixed with the modernist circle of George Bell, William Frater and Lina Bryans and became increasingly interested in European modern art and Cubism. However in 1952 he reached a crisis in his painting practice and embarked on a highly risky voyage from Darwin to Timor on a home-made raft. Although nearly costing him his life, it brought about a profound change in his artwork which became increasingly abstracted, more self-reflective and concerned with spiritual and religious themes.

The Macquarie Galleries’ label on the reverse of Three faces indicates that this work was ‘used, with the artist’s concurrence, by the Conservation Department of the Art Gallery of New South Wales for experimentation in techniques for setting down, restoring and conserving the work of this artist.’

Fairweather’s work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, all state and many regional galleries, Tate Gallery, London, and Ulster Museum, Belfast.