Sam Fullbrook was an Australian artist who was a winner of the Archibald Prize for portraiture and the Wynne Prize for landscape. He was described as “last of the bushman painters” (a rural art tradition). However Fullbrook was fine art-trained and his sophisticated works are in every State art museum in Australia and international collections.
Fullbrook was born in the inner city suburb of Chippendale in Sydney in 1922.
His first solo exhibition was held at the Waterside Workers’ Hall, Sydney in 1952. The same year, he had a second solo show at the Moreton Gallery, Brisbane and received honourable mention in the Archibald Prize for his portrait of his contemporary, potter Bernard Sahm. Fullbrook then travelled west across Australia, setting up a studio in Marble Bar in Western Australia, also working as a miner, cane cutter and stockman.
Artist Robert Jacks said he painted “some of the most beautiful portraits ever painted in Australia.” Among them are former Australian Governor-General Sir John Kerr and media entrepreneur Reg Grundy; others include Pat Brown and Bernard Sahm, artists, jockeys and members of the public. The Kerr portrait was submitted to hang in Parliament House but was rejected for being “caricature”.
Fullbrook’s light and airy works were soft figuration bordering on abstraction in high-tone coloured patches but leaving the subject entirely recognisable. Most of his paintings and scenes were about his personal interests and life experiences. He painted in oils and worked in pastels and watercolour as well as exhibiting drawings. Reviewing a 1995 National Gallery of Victoria exhibition, Racing Colors, art critic Robert Nelson described him as:
“A colourist… Fullbrook’s forte lies in the difficult balancing of patches of pinks and teal, or striations of lilac and dashes of cadmium green.”
Fullbrook won the Archibald Prize in 1974 with the painting Jockey Norman Stephens. He won the Wynne Prize in 1963 with Sandhills on the Darling, and shared the Wynne Prize the following year with Trees in a Landscape showing Jacarandas in a Sydney scene.
Throughout the 1960s to 2001 his works were included in national tours and tours to the U.S. He exhibited in New York in 1989. Fullbrook had solo shows in galleries in every Australian state.
Fullbrook’s works are in national and all state museum collections. A prolific artist, he has been collected in every major Australian museum, every state museum and in many city gallery collections, clubs and Universities. He has been collected commercially and privately in Australia, the United States, Canada, China, Japan, the U.K., New Zealand, Europe and Malaysia.
- 1963 Wynne Prize
- 1964 Wynne Prize (shared with David Strachan)
- 1966 David Jones Art Prize
- 1967 H C Richards Memorial Prize for Painting, Townsville Prize
- 1969 H C Richards Memorial Prize for Painting, L J Harvey Memorial Prize for Drawing
- 1970 Wholohan Prize
- 1974 Archibald Prize