Sam Fullbrook, who was one of Australia’s most influential artists of the twentieth century, could be described as a rough diamond. Yet in contrast to his feisty character he was, as an exhibition showing at the Queensland Art Gallery illustrates, a painter of exquisite skills.

The exhibition, which runs through until August 10, focuses on the works Fullbrook produced while living in south-east Queensland.

Evolving his style independently of the trends of his era he was equally adept whether applying himself to portraiture or figurative studies, landscapes or still life.

Fulbrook, who had an exceptional ability to blend colour and tone, was also highly proficient whether working in pastels, watercolours or oils.


His unique talents are encapsulated in the title “Delicate Beauty” given to the beautifully illustrated catalogue accompanying the presentation at QAG.

Among the highlights of the exhibition, curated by Angela Goddard, is his oil on canvas of author Ernestine Hill, which is considered to be one of the great Australian portraits.

One of the most valued of the QAG’s holdings the painting was a finalist in the 1970 Archibald Prize competition.

Four years later Fullbrook won the Archibald with his portrait of jockey Norman “Whopper” Stephens, which is being exhibited with the compliments of The Brisbane Club.

Over years following his Archibald success the artist became more deeply immersed in racing and the exhibition includes numerous racetrack-related paintings such as the striking jockey, horse and aeroplane.

Additionally there is a wide range of Fullbrook’s delightful and, at times, thought-provoking landscapes, spread throughout the exhibition and the catalogue.

Both the exhibition and the catalogue, which is the first substantial publication of Fullbrook’s highly individual works produced by the state gallery in almost two decades, are wholeheartedly recommended.

Words by Graeme Kelly

Image via