From the Director: Sam Fullbrook

Sam Fullbrook: Delicate Beauty Foundation Preview Queensland Art Gallery
Opening night: QAGOMA chair Sue Street AO, Chris Saines CNZM, curator Angela Goddard, former curatorial manager of Australian Art Julie Ewington, QAGOMA Foundation President Tim Fairfax AC, at the Foundation viewing of ‘Sam Fullbrook: Delicate Beauty’

Our ‘classic’ building, the Queensland Art Gallery was recently released back in to its natural condition, with a long line of sight from the Stanley Place entrance through to the rear Asian galleries fully revealed. For that, we owe an enduring debt to its architect Robin Gibson, who sadly passed away last month. The Gallery is widely considered the most accomplished of his many architectural achievements.

The design of the Queensland Art Gallery was founded on a set of recurring geometric principles, the kind formulated in classical Vitruvian architecture. We are the inheritors of a building of timeless elegance; modernist in its unornamented materiality, but undeniably classical in its elegant proportions and perfectly articulated volumes.

That irresistible beauty, to be found in the satisfying relationship of equal parts to a whole, is nowhere better found than Gallery 14 – the Glencore Queensland Artist’s Gallery – a room whose dimensions are precisely that of half a cube.

Sam Fullbrook: Delicate Beauty Queensland Art Gallery
Half a cube: ‘Sam Fullbrook: Delicate Beauty’ installed in the Glencore Queensland Artists’ Gallery

This gallery currently hosts the latest in its ongoing series of exhibitions of the work of important artists who were born, or worked largely, in Queensland: ‘Sam Fullbrook: Delicate Beauty‘.

Fullbrook’s painterly skill and his relentless dedication to his practice mark him as a painter’s painter.  Working from a foundation of fine draftsmanship, he turned his hand from portraiture and figurative studies to landscape and still life.  He was proficient in pastel, watercolour and oil painting and as his mentor, the esteemed portraitist William Dargie, recognised, his ability to manipulate colour and fine tonal gradation was truly outstanding. Our most recent Fullbrook acquisition, Pike’s Farm at Haden 1982–87, is testimony to this.

Sam Fullbrook, Australia 1922-2004 | Pike’s Farm at Haden 1982–87 / Oil on canvas / Purchased 2013. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery /© Estate of the artist

In a biographical quote from 1967, annotated in Robert Cunningham’s curatorial notes held in the Gallery’s Research Library collection, Fullbrook wrote that he hoped “…to combine in my work tenderness and sweetness, charm, clarity, succinctness, love, passion and religion, and pray to Christ no painting of mine will ever be described as either powerful, strong, brilliant, or clever.”

This tells us a lot about the sort of painter, and indeed, the sort of man, that Sam Fullbrook was. He was not interested in hyperbole, feigned emotion or cheap tricks. In this exhibition, we see works that are tender, sweet, charming, clear, and succinct. On his own terms, we can call him a remarkably successful painter.

Sam Fullbrook, Australia 1922-2004 / Mermaid as Bride 1971 / Oil on canvas on panel / Gift of the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Foundation for the Arts through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery /© Estate of the artist

The publication accompanying this exhibition is the first on Fullbrook in many years and includes, along with an illuminating essay by our curator Angela Goddard, the transcript of an interview between the artist and John Cruthers, conducted in Oakey in late 1985. In an extensive chat, the painter details his life, his technique and his relationships in the art world. He is frank, but endearing. In this, Fullbrook makes a seemingly obvious but very astute observation:

“Those paintings… that remain, are well painted. There’s no such thing as a badly painted Old Master, so primarily there is technique — technique is the thing that stands the test of time.”

This statement is borne out in ‘Delicate Beauty’. Sam’s pictures indeed stand the test of time.