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Lina Bryans

1909 – 2000

Lina Bryans OAM (1909-2000), artist, was born into a prosperous Melbourne family and grew up moving freely between Toorak and Europe. She was married for five years in the early 1930s, giving birth to a son; separated, she moved to South Yarra, where, encouraged by Jock Frater and Iain McKinnon, she developed an interest in art. By 1938 her work was included in the Herald Exhibition of Outstanding Pictures. Apart from a few lessons she took with George Bell in 1948, and a few months at the Grande Chaumière in Paris in 1953, she had no formal art training. She never became allied with the major Melbourne art cliques, the George Bell circle or the Heide crowd. Instead, for much of the 1940s, her home, Darebin Bridge House, became a meeting place for the Meanjin literary set and artists including Ian Fairweather, who often camped at her so-called ‘Pink Hotel’. In 1948 she moved to Harkaway, near Berwick. Between 1937 and 1974 she painted more than 70 portraits of her artistic and literary contemporaries; for much of this time, she was a member of the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, but she left the group in 1966 (only to rejoin in 1991). The first of her many portraits, of fellow artist Ambrose Hallen, was donated to the National Portrait Gallery by Sir James and Lady Cruthers in 2001; her later portrait of Alan Marshall had been one of the first acquired for the collection, three years earlier. One of her best-known portraits, representing Jean Campbell but titled The babe is wise, is in the collection of the NGV along with fourteen of her other works. Since the early 1980s Bryans has attracted a good deal of critical interest and her works have been exhibited often. Gillian Forwood’s Lina Bryans: Rare Modern 1909-2000 was published in 2003.

Updated 2017