Lloyd Rees


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(1895–1988), born Brisbane, the seventh of eight children, received an education in European culture from his French-Mauritian mother. After studying art at Brisbane Technical College, he worked for a brief period for the Queensland Government Printing Office. His pen drawings of Brisbane, a city he transformed into a Parisian ideal of ‘boulevards, riverside quays, graceful bridges, trees squares and fountains’, came to the attention of Sydney Ure Smith, and led to his employment in 1917 by the commercial art firm of Smith & Julius in Sydney. He became friendly with other artists such as Roland Wakelin, Percy Leason and Grace Cossington Smith, was exhibited by the Society of Artists and received favourable attention from Lionel Lindsay. After visiting Europe in 1923, he supported himself by drawing illustrations part-time for Farmers' department store. His marriage in 1926 to Dulcie Metcalf ended tragically when she died a year later, a loss which seriously affected his painting. In 1931 he married Marjory Pollard, his wife for fifty-three years, and began to attract recognition as a painter. His son Alan was born in 1934 and the family moved to Northwood NSW, to a house designed by Rees as an Italian villa. From the 1940s Rees won numerous prizes and awards, held frequent exhibitions and was honoured with a retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW in 1942. In 1946 he started to teach painting and drawing to architectural students at the University of Sydney and attracted great affection from his students. He was made CMG in 1978 and AC in 1985 and received an honorary D.Litt. from the University of Sydney in 1970. Rees's lyrical, light-filled paintings ranged widely in subject matter, reflecting his love of landscape; regions and cities which stimulated his art included Paris and Chartres, Tuscany, the south coast of NSW, Sydney Harbour, the Bathurst region, central Australia, Tasmania and early Canberra. His youthful passion for Brisbane's St John's Cathedral persisted in later life, resulting in a series of paintings of cathedrals. He made frequent visits to Europe, which had a strong influence on his painting of Australian subjects, to the extent that Europe and Australia co-existed in his work. In his later years, when he continued to paint free-flowing works in rich, luminous colours, he became well known as an activist to preserve the environment and an anti-nuclear energy protester. Rees wrote two volumes of autobiography, which are also informative on the history of Australia's visual arts culture, The Small Treasures of a Lifetime (1969) and Peaks and Valleys (1985). In 1990 a dramatic tribute, ‘Swimming in Light’, was performed in Melbourne. René Free has written widely on Rees, e.g. Lloyd Rees Retrospective (1968), Lloyd Rees (1972), Lloyd Rees: The Later Work (1983, updated in 1990 as Lloyd Rees: The Last Twenty Years).

From The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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