Lloyd Rees

1895 - 1988


Lloyd Frederic Rees was born at the family home Avalon, in, Yeronga, a suburb of Brisbane. His ambition to study architecture was frustrated by a weakness in maths and physics. After leaving school in 1911, he worked as a clerk until 1913 when he was appointed Junior Artist on the staff of the Queensland Government Printing Office.
At this time he attended evening art classes at Brisbane Technical College under the tutorage of Godfrey Rivers, Martyn Roberts, and L.J. Harvey who were all influential in his development. Here he gained his first exposure to the coloured reproductions of Turner, Corot and Constable, drawings of Italy and photographs of the great buildings of Paris, all of which, and especially Corot, made lasting impressions on the young Rees.
Following a period of illness, Rees was able to study full time at the Brisbane Technical College, where his skills with pen, pencil and watercolour were honed. He soon attracted the attention of Sydney Ure Smith, publisher of Art in Australia, who offered a job with Smith & Julius Studio in Sydney. Commencing work in 1917, Rees found that the Studio was a hub for the Sydney art circle, and he was soon acquainted with the Lindsays, Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Nellie Melba, Henry Lawson and Roland Wakelin, who became a close lifelong friend

In 1931 he married Marjory Pollard, and together they built a home at Northwood, on the Lane Cove River, which was to be a focal point for Rees for several decades.
In the mid 1930s, due to ill health, Rees refrained from using oil paint concentrating, on pencil drawings of Sydney, the harbour and the suburbs. Through these refined drawings, Rees cemented his reputation as one of Australia's finest draughtsmen gaining international recognition when awarded the Silver Medal for Drawing at the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et des Techniques in Paris. Rees said in 1940 that 'drawing is a structural necessity for all depictive art of a vital and permanent character'. (1)

Until 1946 he worked mainly as a freelance commercial artist (which included designing two of the floats for the Opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge) and in the early 1940s, he also taught drawing at evening classes at the Sydney Technical College. In 1946 he was appointed as a part-time lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Sydney teaching Drawing and the History of Art. This appointment gave him more time to concentrate on his own work, and he freely acknowledged the valuable stimulus that he received from the students that he taught. He continued to teach there for the next forty years, giving his final lectures at the end of 1986. In 1942 he joined the Northwood Group of painters.

In 1952-53 Lloyd Rees visited Europe again, this time with his family. San Gimignano and the light tone of Italy encouraged him to lighten his palette, aided by the discovery of lead-free titanium white. This caused a marked change in the tone of the work, the blue in particular becomes a much higher tone. He returned to Europe in 1959, 1966-67, and in 1973, when Chartres became the major subject. When working overseas Rees concentrated on sketches, drawings, watercolours, and occasionally, oils. He developed many of the sketches into fully worked up oils on his return to Australia. At home, his favourite locations included the Sydney environs, Bathurst, the Illawarra, Central Australia and Tasmania. Rees loved nature and strived in much of his art to capture every day beauty. Like Cezanne and Corot, he used a meditative approach observing details over time.

The paintings, particularly the early landscapes, often have signs of habitation. Rees was fascinated by colour and managed to portray differences with great subtlety, making some of the works quite exquisite. Another change in the 1960s is the texture which becomes heavier, almost taking on the character of the earth itself. Rees last stage, known as the heroic stage, is more abstract and employs a lighter tone. In some of the later landscapes there is little sign of habitation and detail has largely given way to a wash of colour and tone, which Rees masterly employs with shape to create an almost touchable, floating, atmosphere. His passion for the Gothic makes him, like Turner, strive to capture the sublime and in his later years he bathes the viewer in light and sun, veiling us 'in mists in overwhelming present'. (2)

Lloyd Rees was a member of Society of Artists 1932, later Vice President then President and a Foundation member of Australian Academy of Art 1938.

(1) Renee Free, Lloyd Rees, Lansdowne Press Pty Ltd Melbourne, 1972, P10
(2) Lloyd Rees with Renee Free, Lloyd Rees An Artist Remembers, Craftsman's House Sydney, 1988, p9

'''We thank Jan and Alan Rees for their assistance in compiling this biography'''



''Lloyd Rees Drawings, Centenary Retrospective'', Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney


''Lloyd Rees, Brett Whiteley: On the Road to Berry'', Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Melbourne


''The Cathedrals of France by Lloyd Rees: An exhibition from the University of Sydney Collection'', The Gallery, Seymour Centre, University of Sydney


''A Celebration of Lloyd Rees'', University of Melbourne Gallery

''Lloyd Rees: Etchings and Lithographs'', Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney


''Lumiere du Bout du Monde'', Printemps Haussman, Paris


''Lloyd Rees as Printmaker'', Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart


''Lloyd Rees - A Lifetime'', Bathurst Regional Gallery, Bathurst NSW

''Lloyd Rees: Some Tasmanian Works'', Fine Arts Gallery, University of Tasmania


''Lloyd Rees: The Printed Works'', Art Gallery of Western Australia

''Lloyd Rees: Late Drawings and Lithographs'', Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston


''Lloyd Rees Survey, Drawings and Paintings 1918-1980'', University Gallery, University of Melbourne


''A Tribute to Lloyd Rees'', Queensland Art Gallery


New Grafton Gallery, London


''Retrospective Exhibition'', Art Gallery of New South Wales


Macquarie Galleries, Sydney. Start of a long association

''Retrospective Exhibition'', Art Gallery of New South Wales


First Solo Exhibition


Queensland Art Society

Achievements, Collections & Commissions



Australian Bicentennial Authority's list ''Two Hundred People who made Australia Great''

Sydney University Union Medal for services to art & to the University


Medaille de la Ville de Paris for services to art 1987, (Echelon Vermeil)

Inaugural Jack Manton Prize, Brisbane, winner.


Inaugural Medal of the Painters and Sculptors Association of Australia


Awarded Companion of the Order of Australia

Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary Foundation

Henry Lawson Australian Arts Award


Honorary Doctorate of Letters, University of Tasmania


McCaughey Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney


Wynne Prize for Landscape Painting, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, Winner


Mosman Art prize, winner

City of Bathurst, Honorary Citizenship Certificate


Honorary Fellowship of Royal Australian Institute of Architects


Awarded CMG for services to art


Granted Freedom to the City of Sydney


The John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize, National Gallery of Victoria, winner


Australian Internation Co-operation Art Award, Winner

Honorary Doctorate of Letters, University of Sydney


McCaughey Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney


HC Richards Memorial Art Prize, winner


Visual Arts Committee for UNESCO


President Society of Artists, Sydney


Commonwealth Jubilee Art Prize, Winner


Dunlop Art Prize, joint second prize


The Commonwealth Jubilee Art Prize, Winner

Municipalty of Ku-ring-gai Jubilee Art Prize, winner


Wynne Prize for Landscape Painting, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, Winner


Sydney representative for Felton Bequest


Godfrey Rivers Prize, winner


Exposition Internationale des Arts et des Techniques, Paris, Silver medal for drawing


Art Gallery of NSW acquired three drawings from a Society of Artists Exhibition


'Australian Landscape of Painters Today', in ''Art in Australia'' 1929 (illus. Waterside Café, oil)

Badham, H. E., ''A Study of Australian Art'', Sydney, Currawong, 1949

Burdett, B., 'The Later Works of Lloyd Rees' in ''Queensland Magazine'', July 1924

Carter, N., 'Lloyd Rees, Landscapes in oils' in ''Art in Australia'', no. 72, August 1938 (colour illus. Summer in the Bush)

Free, R., ''Lloyd Rees'', Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1972 (reprinted 1979)

Free, R.,'' Lloyd Rees Retrospective'', Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1969

Free, R., (in collaboration with Lloyd Rees), ''Lloyd Rees: the last 20 years'', Craftsman House, Sydney, 1990 (a revised edition with additional material of Lloyd Rees: the later works)

Free, R., Rees, L., ''Lloyd Rees: the later works'', The Craftsman's Press, Sydney, 1983

Gleeson, J., ''Mastepieces of Australian Painting'', Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1969

Lahey, V., ''Art in Queensland 1859-1959'', Queensland Art Gallery, 1959 (illus. Rue St Julien le Pauvre, oil)

Klepac, L.(ed), ''Lloyd Rees: Drawings'', Australian Artist Editions, 1978

Kolenberg, Hendrik, ''Lloyd Rees drawings: Centenary Retrospective'', Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1995 (Includes an introductory essay. The 129 drawings, 1913-1988, in the exhibition are illustrated [44 in colour])

Kolenberg, Hendrik, ''Lloyd Rees: etchings and lithographs: a catalogue raisonné'', Beagle Press, Sydney, 1986 (With 95 illustrations of etchings and lithographs, 1922-1984)

Kolenberg, Hendrik, ''Lloyd Rees in Europe: Selected drawings from his sketchbooks in the Gallery's collection'', Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2002.

McNally, M. J., 'The Silent Bush' in ''Art Gallery of South Australia Bulletin'', no. 3, September 1939 (illus. [cover], The Silent Bush, oil)

Rees, Jancis & Rees, Alan, ''Lloyd Rees: a source book'', Beagle Press, Sydney, 1995

Wakelin, R., 'Lloyd Rees, Romantic Landscapist' in ''Present Day Art in Australia 2'', Sydney, Ure Smith, 1945 (illus. Afternoon in Gerringong; Illawarra Pastoral [colour]; The Passing Storm; September Landscape, Orange; The Bay, oils)


(with Renee Free) ''An Artist Remembers'', Craftsman House, 1987 (60 colour illustrations [59 oils and 1 drawing, 1920 - 1986], accompanied by Rees's memories of each work)

'Douglas Dundas' in catalogue of Society of Artists' Exhibition 1961

'Grecian Memories' in catalogue of Society of Artists' Spring Exhibition 1960

''Lloyd Rees: drawings'', edited with an introduction by Lou Klepac, Australian Artist Editions, Sydney, 1978

(with Elizabeth Butel) ''Peaks and Valleys: an autobiography'', William Collins, Sydney, 1985 (reissued by Collins Publishers Australia, Sydney, 1988; [Imprint lives] Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1933; Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1995)

'Remembering Sydney in the Twenties' in ''Kalori Journal of the Royal South Australian Society of Arts'', Adelaide, April, 1965

''Sydney University: Drawings by Lloyd Rees'', Smith & Julius, Sydney, 1922

''The Small Treasures of a Lifetime: some early memories of Australian art and artists'', Ure Smith, Sydney, 1969 (reissued by William Collins, Sydney, 1984; Collis Publishers Australia, Sydney, 1988; Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1995)

'What Is Good Drawing?' in ''Art in Australia'', 23 February 1940