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Yellow portrait (portrait of Alex Jelinek)
, 1955

by Lina Bryans

oil on plywood (frame: 183.7 cm x 122.7 cm)

Alex Jelinek (1925–2007), architect and designer, graduated from the technical building school of Hradec Králové, near Prague, during World War II. In 1946 he became attached to the architectural school of the Prague Academy of Fine Arts, but just weeks before he was due to graduate, he fled communist Czechoslovakia to live as a displaced person in West Germany. In 1950 he emigrated to Australia on a labour contract. Initially working in Melbourne, laying track, the cultivated Praguer ended up on the Eucumbene Dam site. Some time before 1955 he met the artist Lina Bryans, and they began a lifelong relationship. Prickly with prospective clients, Jelinek was a visionary of genius, drawing brilliant designs for far more structures than he ever realised. For Bryans’s second cousin, Canberra academic Bruce Benjamin, he carried out the spiral ‘Round House’ in Gawler Crescent, Deakin, which was named Australian House of the Year in 1957 and is now heritage-listed. In 1962 he designed a roadhouse at Peregian Beach that was converted to a motel before it was knocked down in 2003. Otherwise, his modifications to Bryans’s two Melbourne houses were his only solid architectural contributions. His huge sculpture, Quill (1974) and some aluminium furniture he designed are now in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Paul and James Bryans
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2015
Accession number: 2015.33