One of Australia’s most highly regarded landscape artists, Lloyd Rees’ influential presence in the Australian art world has been strongly felt. With an artistic repertoire of high calibre consisting of paintings, drawings, etchings and lithographs, Rees’ landscapes came to be greatly celebrated for the way they encapsulated a deep affinity for the Australian landscape and the romantic ideal of the harmonious relationship between man and nature.
Born in Brisbane, Australia in 1895, Rees was blessed with sound education in the arts. Under the instruction of Godfrey Rivers, Martyn Roberts and L.J Harvey, he commenced his art studies at the Brisbane Technical School before moving to Sydney in 1917 to work in advertising. It was during this time, while working at the Smith and Julius advertising firm that Rees was introduced to a number of other Australian artists who acted as significant influences on the budding artist’s ways of practice and critical thinking.
Going on to resume his art studies at the prestigious Chelsea Polytechnic College in London in 1923, it was to become the first of four European trips taken by Rees in his lifetime. As his palette became stronger and more developed Rees’ European travels had proved to have had a profound effect on his art practices, with many of his works serving to reflect the dominant influences of Italian and French art traditions. While his early landscapes were based on close observation and deep attachment, the experiences gained from his European travels allowed Rees to represent an “invented naturalism” in his works and he became preoccupied with creating an evocative sense of atmosphere by depicting the effects of light, colour and composition on the Australian landscape. In depicting these effects in his works, Rees was successful in conveying a sense of serenity and expressing an individual’s spiritual connection to nature.
Creating his signature landscapes with oils, watercolour, pencil, charcoal and ink, Rees demonstrated a talent for working with a range of materials and an ability to portray atmosphere in his work with the combination of solidity and structure. As his landscapes came to be characterized by tertiary colours and rounded, carefully modelled forms, the work of Lloyd Rees came to represent a classic style that fitted the general pattern of the Sydney romantic school of painting and showed an avoidance of the popular impressionist styles of the time.
As water became a consistently favourite subject adopted by Rees in his works, the dominance of this theme can be seen in a number of his works portraying Sydney Harbour and the Lane Cove River. Such examples include his works, The Harbour from McMahons Point, and Morning on the Derwent.
Receiving much recognition and a number of accolades for his significant contribution to the Australian art world, Rees went on to win numerous prestigious awards in his lifetime. He was awarded a Silver Medal for the Paris Exposition Prize in 1937, the Godfrey Rivers Prize,1941, the Wynne Prize for landscape in 1950 and 1982, the Commonwealth Jubilee Prize, 1951 the Dunlop Prize in 1954 and the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 1985.
Having become well-known in art circles, not only for his landscapes, but also for his teachings in art, Rees held prominent positions in a number of renowned institutions. From 1947 he was the acting Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of NSW and from 1946-70 he lectured in art history and taught painting and drawing the University of Sydney. Rees then went on to become the President of the NSW Society of artists from 1960-65.
The art of Lloyd Rees has been shown internationally in London and America as well as in many Australian exhibitions. Today his work is represented in the Australian National Gallery, Canberra, all State and many regional galleries and several university collections. Rees’ also has public collections shown in Auckland and Dundedin, New Zealand.