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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The choices of a modern woman

‘Lina Bryans’s portrait of Alex Jelinek inscribes a grand passion: it was painted at the outset of an affair that lasted the rest of their lives’, stated Roger Benjamin, Lina’s cousin.

1Yellow portrait (portrait of Alex Jelinek), 1955 Lina Bryans. © Estate of Lina Bryans. 2The red hat, 1937 William Frater. National Gallery of Victoria, Felton Bequest, 1943. © Estate of William Frater.

Lina Bryans makes a strong case for characterisation as the epitome of the modern woman, subverting her era’s stereotypes and living as she chose. Born in 1909, she’d separated from her husband by the mid-1930s, and then began to paint, influenced by artist and mentor William Frater, with whom she became very close for the next decade or so. Her paintings were immediately well-received, and she immersed herself in Melbourne’s cultural milieu. In 1954 Lina met architect and designer Alex Jelinek, a recent immigrant from Czechoslovakia and sixteen years her junior. The pair were opposites in many ways: Lina was an individualist and social, creating a centre at her home for creatives to gather; Alex was ascetic and rather reclusive. They fell into an intense and rewarding relationship that lasted until Lina’s passing in 2000. Lina’s 1955 Yellow portrait (of Alex) always hung in their home, wherever they made it.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.