Bryan Westwood was born in Lima, Peru in 1930. He was educated in South America and Australia, and lived in Italy, France and the United States.
In the 1960s, following a career in advertising, economics and film, Westwood began painting professionally, after encouragement from artists Jeffrey Smart and Justin O’Brien. Largely self-taught, and had his first exhibition in 1969.
He won the Archibald twice: in 1989 with a portrait of artist Elwyn Lynn, and with this painting of Paul Keating in 1992.
Bryan (1930-2000) was a complex man with a ‘black dog’ often at his shoulder. We first met in the 1960’s when he attended classes with Justin O’Brien and Jeffrey Smart at Mary White’s long demolished studio in Edgecliff.
Bryan, Justin and Jeffrey also attended classes together with Dorothy Thornhill, the brilliant draftswoman, in those dear dead pre p c days.
Early in his painting career Bryan did a number of full scale exercises in the manner of Velasquez and these may still be seen in the older collections which focus on content rather than monetary value.
After this came what I recall as a period of super-realism typified by his Woman in the Phone Box.
Bryan’s Portrait of Mervyn Horton hung in the Archibald Prize in 1966 and was a fine likeness but the canvas was too big and filled with esoteric references. It is in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, although rarely hung (not in conformity with terms of its donation).
He was a lovely dinner guest, full of wit and full of arcane theories about fascinating subjects. His letters were a joy always, the two-pager from the Savoy Hotel in London conveyed the pleasure he took in painting HM the Queen, and also his pleasure in the room where the subject of the portrait ‘talked easily’ on many topics.
From Buckingham Palace to an art-deco block of apartments, Somerset in Elizabeth Bay, this is where I first dined with Bryan and two other denizens of the block Justin O’Brien and Jeffrey Smart, and with Mervyn Horton. Whatever it was we ate, was awfully good, and the chat included the telling of O’Brien and Smart’s recent visit to Hill End and returning with a handsome pottery jar containing some mysterious powder. When Justin emptied this into the loo “ there was a violent reaction “ Justin called Smartipoos from across the hall ‘Come and have a look at this’. They escaped with their eyebrows intact when the loo was blown from its moorings. In those days we would talk til 3am and still get on with things.
Our local diner was Primo’s Restaurant which had rather primitive murals by Jeff Smart, and two or three evenings a week we would dine together there on a chance basis. After a time in France, Bryan had a lovely exhibition at Bonython Art Gallery in Paddington. In one of his shows at the Robin Gibson Gallery was a terrific portrait which I bought, and Bryan made me immediately un-buy.
Bryan’s remarkable portrait of Margaret Olley was too true to be good, but was a great painting which he subsequently destroyed (finalist Archibald Prize 1993).
His portrait of Paul Keating won the Archibald in 1991/2. Later, for abut two years this was hung in Sue du Val’s dining room where she teasingly delighted in the horror of her many right wing friends. At the time Bryan lived opposite Sue and strenuously objected when her house was painted blue, informing her that ONLY houses in the Greek Islands and Goa were allowed to be painted blue.
In this small article I have just briefly touched on some aspects of Bryan’s life. In the current exhibition at the Robin Gibson Gallery many of the works from different periods are on show and I urge you to see them.
Christopher Davis 2012
2021 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
2020 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
2012 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
2002 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1999 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1998 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1994 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1993 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1993 Australian Galleries, Sydney
1992 Australian Galleries, Sydney
1990 Adelaide Festival Exhibition
1988 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1987 Bonython-Meadmore Gallery, Adelaide
1986 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1986 Greenhill Galleries, Perth
1986 Bonython-Meadmore Gallery, Adelaide
1986 Australian Galleries, Melbourne
1985 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1984 Greenhill Galleries, Perth
1984 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1983 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1983 Australian Galleries, Melbourne
1982 Bonython Gallery, Adelaide
1982 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1982 Cooks Hill Gallery, Newcastle
1982 Milburn Galleries, Brisbane
1981 Staempfli Gallery, New York, USA
1980 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1980 Australian Galleries, Melbourne
1979 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1979 Foster-White Gallery, Seattle, USA
1978 Bonython Gallery, Adelaide
1978 Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
1976 Bonython Gallery, Sydney
1975 South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne
1974 Bonython Gallery, Sydney
1973 Lister Gallery, Perth
1973 Bonython Gallery, Adelaide
1972 Bonython Gallery, Sydney
1969 Bonython Gallery, Sydney
1989 Archibald Prize, ‘Portrait of Elwyn Lynn’, Art Gallery of New South Wales
1992 Archibald Prize, ‘Portrait of Paul Keating PM’, Art Gallery of New South Wales
Arts Centre, Melbourne
Australian National Gallery
Art Gallery of New South Wales
University of Western Australia
Australian National University, Canberra
Parliament House, Canberra
Art Gallery of Western Australia
Art Gallery of South Australia
High Court of New South Wales
Sydney Town Hall
NSW State Parliament Offices
New Parliament House Offices, Canberra
Maitland City Art Gallery
Rockhampton City Art Gallery
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston
Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston
Government House, Adelaide
Queensland University of Technology
Howard Florey Institute
Tweed River Regional Art Gallery
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Broken Hill City Art Gallery
Tooth and Co, Sydney
John Fairfax & Sons Ltd
State Bank of Victoria
Lloyd International, Sydney
Australia United Corporation, Sydney
The Hammerson Group, London
The Safeco Corporation, Seattle, USA
George Patterson, Sydney
Bloomingdales, New York
Campbell Capital Ltd, Sydney
New Zealand Securities Ltd, Sydney
Holmes a Court Collection
The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London
Seattle Opera, Seattle, USA
Melbourne Cricket Club
Royal Sydney Golf Club
Margaret Hannah Olley Foundation
Pamela Stephenson & Billy Connolly