Ian Fairweather

Scotland, Australia 1891-1974
Fairweather is one of the most individual and eccentric figures in Australian art, and the most revered by his fellow artists. Born in Scotland, he had an unsettled childhood and was a prisoner of war during World War One. After studying at London’s Slade School of Art, he travelled extensively for almost three decades before settling on Queensland’s then-remote Bribie Island in 1953. There, the reclusive artist lived and worked in two thatched huts, without the distractions of modern life disturbing his painting.

Last Supper 1958

‘Painting is a personal thing,’ said Fairweather. ‘It gives me the same kind of satisfaction that religion, I imagine, gives to some people.’

This is the finest in a series of large religious paintings that he started aged 67. The title references the biblical scene in which Jesus Christ shares his last meal with his 12 disciples. The work is one of Fairweather’s earliest attempts at abstraction, fusing elements of his earlier travels through Asia, exposure to contemporary European art and knowledge of calligraphy. Chinese calligraphy encouraged him to experiment with different ways of making marks, and the Chinese idea that a finished work should ‘emerge’ from the sheet influenced how he made his pictures.