Ian Fairweather was one of the most significant painters to have lived in Australia in the 20th century. Born in Scotland in 1891, he was left in the care of an aunt at the age of six months when his immediate family returned to India. A sense of abandonment permeated much of his life and work, and he often lived in isolation on the fringes of society as a hermit obsessively immersed in his painting.
Originally a landscape painter, Fairweather became increasingly interested in figures and produced work that was significantly autobiographical. From the mid-1950s, he lived and worked on Queensland's Bribie Island; his abstract paintings from this time feature scenes from his life on the island.
Fairweather masterfully combined elements from both Western and Asian cultures. His influences were wide-ranging, and included the artists Turner and Cézanne, Chinese culture and Buddhism, Chinese calligraphy, post-impressionism, cubism, abstraction and Aboriginal art. Though a master colourist, he used colour sparingly.
Fairweather's work is held by the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, all Australian state and many regional galleries, London's Tate Gallery, the Leicester Art Gallery in the UK, and the Ulster Museum in Belfast.