Elwyn Lynn

1917 – 1997


Elwyn Lynn

Job 1986/87 mixed media on paper 56×76cm

Elwyn Lynn occupied a remarkable position in Australian art of the second half of the 20thC.

In 1958, Lynn visited Europe, where the walls and buildings of many major cities still bore the scars of the dreadful destruction of the Second World War. He also attended the Venice Biennale, where he saw the works of the emerging matter painters, including Antoni Tapies, who were being exhibited in the Spanish Pavilion. These experiences exerted an indelible influence on Lynn. He felt that it was impossible, now, to create paintings that calmly tinkered with formal arrangements, or which confined themselves to beguiling but innocuous subject matter. Lynn turned to unconventional painting media and above all to expressive surfaces to construct metaphors for human suffering and endurance. Most of his work was essentially abstract, although a sense of the landscape is often evoked – a landscape disfigured, torn and corrugated by time and geomorphic stresses.

The later work of Lynn maintained his interest in damaged and shredding surfaces, and his frequent and adventurousness use of assemblage elements. These late works were also marked by an expressionist vehemence and a daring informality.

As well as his considerable achievements as a painter, Elwyn Lynn was also of central importance in Australian art as a writer, and art critic, President of the Contemporary Art Society (NSW Branch), Chair of the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council and for fourteen years, and Curator of the Power Gallery of Contemporary Art at the University of Sydney. His awards include the Wynne Prize for landscape painting in 1988, an Australia Council Emeritus Award in 1994, and a Membership of the Order of Australia in 1975. In 1991, the Art Gallery of New South Wales mounted a comprehensive Retrospective Exhibition of his work. “Elwyn Lynn: Metaphor and Texture”, a major study of his work, was published by Craftsman House in 2002.

Emeritus Professor Peter Pinson


The late Elwyn Lynn, artist, writer, arts administrator and raconteur has been commemorated by the Woollahra Council Plaque Scheme

The Woollahra Council Plaque Scheme was launched in 2012 to honour famous people, places or events associated with the Woollahra Local Government area that have made a significant impact on life in the area or Australia as a nation.

Woollahra Council Plaque Scheme


Born Canowindra NSW
BA, Dip Ed, Sydney University and Sydney Teachers’ College
Began Painting in the mid-forties. No formal art training
Taught in NSW High Schools, mainly English and History
Editor of CAS Broadsheet
Art critic, Sunday Mirror
President of the Contemporary Art Society of Australia (NSW Branch)
Art critic, The Australian
Art critic, The Bulletin
Associate Editor of Quadrant. Editor from Jan 78 – Aug 1981
Art critic, The Nation
Curator of Power Gallery of Contemporary Art, Power Institute of Fine Arts
1973 1975 1977
Australian Correspondent, Manifestation Biennale et Internationale
des Jeunes Artistes, Paris
Advisor to Ljublijana Print Biennale, Yugoslavia
Awarded Membership of the Order of Australia
Chairman of the Visual Arts Board
Prepared script for ABC film “Sidney Nolan at Sixty”, directed by Brian Adams, commentary by Lord (Kenneth) Clark
Mid career retrospective exhibition of 50 works, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney
Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of Sydney
Art critic, The Weekend Australian
Elwyn Lynn Conference Room (Selected paintings exhibited) ,College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales
Emeritus Award, Australia Council
Died in Sydney (January)

Solo Exhibitions

dl. 2009:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
2007:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
Milk Factory Gallery, Bowral
Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne
2004:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
2003:The Nolan Gallery, Canberra, Survey exhibition, works 1969 – 1996
2002:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
2001:Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne
Gallery 20/21, Auckland, New Zealand
2000:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1998:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1998:Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne
1996:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1994:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1991:Art Gallery of New South Wales. Retrospective
1990:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1989:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1988:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1987:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
Gerstman Abdallah Fine Arts International, Melbourne
1986:Gerstman Abdallah Fine Arts International, Melbourne
Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1985:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
Quintin Gallery, Perth
Gerstman Abdallah Fine Arts International, Melbourne
1984:Stuart Gerstman Gallery, Melbourne
Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1983:Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
1982:Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1981:Von Bertouch Gallery, Newcastle
1978:Coventry Gallery, Sydney
1977:Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney
1975:Bonython Gallery, Sydney
1974:Dramalan College, Canberra
South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne
1973:Bonython Art Gallery, Sydney
1972:South Yarra Galleries, Melbourne
Reid Gallery, Brisbane
1971:Bonython Art Gallery, Sydney
1970:South Yarra Galleries, Melbourne
1969:Von Bertouch Gallery, Newcastle
Bonython Galleries, Sydney
1967:Hungry Horse Gallery, Sydney
Skinner Gallery, Perth
C.A.S., Adelaide
1966:Von Bertouch Gallery, Newcastle
1963:Museum of Modern Art Melbourne
Terry Clune Gallery, Sydney
Von Bertouch Gallery, Newcastle
1959:Macquarie Galleries, Sydney
Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
1958:Macquarie Galleries, Sydney
Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Johnstone Gallery, Brisbane

Since 1958, Elwyn Lynn has had 50 solo exhibitions in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Cologne, Germany and New Zealand including the 1991 Retrospective 1956 – 1990 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Wagga City Art Gallery and Bathurst City Art Gallery.

Since 1947 Elwyn Lynn has participated in over 150 group exhibitions in Australia, New Zealand, England, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Indonesia, Warsaw, Poland and Cologne.


Awarded Atelier at Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris
Wynne Prize, Art Gallery of NSW
University of NSW Purchase Prize
Wynne Prize, Art Gallery of NSW
Trustees’ Watercolour Prize, Art Gallery of NSW
Trustees’ Watercolour Prize, Art Gallery of NSW
Festival of Fisher’s Ghost Prize, Cambelltown
Robin Hood Prize
RAS Modern Prize and Sidney Myer Charity Trust Prize
Rockdale and Wollongong Prizes
Muswellbrook, Wollongong and Young Prizes
Wagga Wagga and Campbelltown Prizes
Marrickville Prize
Blake Prize
Bathurst Prize
Mosman Prize


*Albury Regional Art Gallery *Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney *Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide *Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth *Araluen Art Centre Alice Springs *Artbank *Auckland Art Gallery New Zealand *Australian War Memorial, Canberra *Bathurst Regional Gallery *Bendigo Regional Gallery *BHP Collection, Melbourne *Brisbane College of Advanced Education *Edith Cowan University, Perth *Broken Hill City Art Gallery *Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga *COFA University of NSW, Sydney *Gold Coast City Art Gallery *Griffith University, Brisbane *Heidi Park & Art Gallery Melbourne *Maitland City Art Gallery *Monash University, Melbourne *Mosman Art Gallery *Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin *Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney *Muswellbrook Regional Art Gallery *National Bank of Australia Collections *National Gallery of Australia, Canberra *National Gallery of Malaysia *Newcastle Regional Art Gallery *Orange Regional Art Gallery *Penrith Regional Art Gallery *Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane *Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, Launceston *Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, Hobart *Wollongong City Gallery *University of Newcastle *University of NSW, Sydney *University of Western Australia, Perth

Nick Waterlow on Elwyn Lynn

Elwyn ‘Jack’ Lynn (1917-97) was born in Canowindra near Orange, studied at the University Of Sydney, and was self-taught as an artist. He was a schoolmaster in Sydney Secondary schools until 1968 became a prominent advocate of the art of his time through the Contemporary Art Society and as editor of its Broadsheet and was appointed Curator of the Power Gallery of Contemporary Art at Sydney University from 1969 to 1983, where he built up an international collection now within Sydney’s Museum Of Contemporary Art. Lynn was a prolific writer, as art critic at the Australian for many years, and as author of several books on artists including Sidney Nolan.

He first went overseas in 1958, and it was in the Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale that he discovered an artist successfully creating ‘matter’ paintings that he had been attempting. Antoni Tapies in particular was a revelation, in his use of texture to build works that were iconic, timeless and redolent of Spain. Fellow Spaniards Rafael Canogar, Manuel Millers and Antonio Saura also impressed, as did the German texture artist such as Emil Schumacher and Bernard Schultz. Lynn discovered that PVA was the magic ingredient and took a whole can back to Australia. He was then able to develop his own version of the genre creating effects inspired by elements in the landscape of his native, often parched land.

Cloud Burst and Burnt Land and Australia are fine and typical examples of his practice. The former possibly emerges from the deeply etched memories of growing up in the bush where conditions veered from deluge to drought. The sense of the title is cleverly embraced in both the construction, choreography and colouring of the work. Lynn’s Australia has none of the hubris of Baz Luhman’s recent similarly titled manifestation, encapsulating instead a wry and understated national awareness, emblematic of the acute difficulties of imposing any bureaucratic system, postal or other, on a harsh untamed land.

Nick Waterlow OAM Director, Ivan Dougherty Gallery

Artist’s Website

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