Sam Fullbrook

Sam Fullbrook (1922–2004) was an Australian artist who was a winner of the Archibald Prize for portraiture and the Wynne Prize for landscape. He was described as “last of the bushman painters” (a rural art tradition). However Fullbrook was fine art-trained and his sophisticated works are in every State art museum in Australia and international collections.

Fullbrook was to have a constant and wide-ranging career as a painter beginning in 1948 with his first joint exhibition at Tye’s Gallery with NGS classmate Tim Nicholl. In the same year his father died and he returned to Sydney, converting his father’s shop into an art studio. To support his painting, Fullbrook went to North Queensland for the cane-cutting season.

Around this time, sharks and “Bondi virgins” made their first appearance in his works. He returned to Queensland where he befriended James Wieneke of Moreton Gallery and was employed by Richard Morley, founder of the Blake Prize. This is when he discovered a talent for landscapes.

His first solo exhibition was held at the Waterside Workers’ Hall, Sydney in 1952. The same year, he had a second solo show at the Moreton Gallery, Brisbane and received honourable mention in the Archibald Prize for his portrait of his contemporary, potter Bernard Sahm. Fullbrook then travelled west across Australia, setting up a studio in Marble Bar in Western Australia, also working as a miner, cane cutter and stockman.

In 1971, he lost most of his work in a fire at his Brisbane studio, but recovered to continue working in the Darling Downs, Sydney, the Gold Coast and Melbourne.

He set up studios all over the country and each change in events and environment would prompt a new direction in the works. His main series were the “Darling River series”, the “Phoenix” series in Buderim, Queensland, “Circus”, “Brisbane River”, and “The Shearer” series among others. His oeuvre ranged from biblical themes, horse-racing, aboriginal Australians, Pilbara landscapes to Bondi, wildlife, floral works, and studio nudes.

Artist Robert Jacks said he painted “some of the most beautiful portraits ever painted in Australia.” Among them are former Australian Governor-General Sir John Kerr and media entrepreneur Reg Grundy; others include Pat Brown and Bernard Sahm, artists, jockeys and members of the public. The Kerr portrait was submitted to hang in Parliament House but was rejected for being “caricature”.

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