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David Fairbairn, Portrait of Jeanette No 3Title
Portrait of Jeanette No 3

On loan

Place of origin
New South Wales, Australia



Acrylic, gouache, pastel, charcoal on paper

174 x 139 cm

Winner Calleen Award 2006

Accession number

Excerpt from The Calleen Collection by Peter Haynes (2019)

David Fairbairn was born in Zambia, Africa in 1949 and studied art at the Durban Technical College in South Africa before moving to England where he took an undergraduate degree in painting and printmaking at the West Surrey College of Art and Design (1974) and a postgraduate certificate in painting at the Royal Academy Schools in London. He travelled to Australia in 1981 where he met fellow painter Suzanne Archer (and 1987 Calleen winner) whom he married in 1985. Fairbairn has taught art for over 20 years and is currently a lecturer at the National Art School in Sydney. Since 1981 he has received over 40 awards and prizes including the Dobell Prize for Drawing (1999) and the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize (2002). Fairbairn has also been a finalist in the Archibald Prize on many occasions. He has been the subject of a number of solo exhibitions and appeared in over 50 group exhibitions in Australia and the United Kingdom. His work is represented in State, regional, institutional and private collections in Australia. He lives and works at Wedderburn outside Sydney.

Portrait of Jeanette No 3 is an impressive example of David Fairbairn’s emotionally compelling portraiture. The work is charged with a vigorous immediacy that results from his consummate use of line and understanding of how line and gestural marks are able to suggest mass, form, time, space and energy within a single image. The artist uses a number of media (here acrylic, gouache, pastel and charcoal) not only as technical means but also as tools to reveal the layered meanings and feelings that give a true portrait its impact. For him the intensity of the relationship between artist and sitter and the time passed over the course of a portrait needs to be incorporated into the finished image. I say finished because I believe that Fairbairn’s practice of producing a number of images of the sitter indicates that for him the portrait will always remain a work in progress. Portrait of Jeanette No 3 is direct in its pictorial honesty as seen particularly in the rawness of the artist’s use of line and his capacity to use line to simultaneously provide formal analysis of the sitter and psychological expression of that person. His limited palette range adds to the strength of his image and the expression of internalised Angst calls to mind the drama of Alberto Giacometti’s exercises in Existential portraiture. Fairbairn’s fascination with the human figure has a strong lineage in art history. The examples of Cézanne and Picasso alongside the aforementioned Giacometti seem to me especially moot in any discussion of David Fairbairn.