History – Adventurer and Traveller Ian Fairweather

Barry Clark - Historian

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Tags: History. Adventurer. Famous people. Historical people. Traveller. World Famous. Artist.

Ian Fairweather – Historical people.

After a lifetime of travel and adventure, in 1953 at the age of 62, this world-famous artist came to live in isolation in a grass hut inland from here. He created some of his finest paintings in this hut over the next 21 years until his death in 1974. Soon after his birth in Scotland in 1891, Ian Fairweather’s military family departed for India leaving him in the care of relatives.

Featured Image(above): Ian Fairweather.

He did not see them again for 8 years. This may have set the pattern set for his solitary, independent, questing life, often spent in extreme poverty but always exploring his extraordinary artistic abilities. He spent his last 21 years on Bribie Island in peace and creativity.

Ian Fairweather outside his grass hut.

Ian Fairweather Fairweather’s Search for Inner Peace

After World War 1, during which he was captured and escaped more than once, he attended the Slade School of Art. He travelled extensively and went to China, learnt the language and translated Chinese works. After living and painting in Shanghai he travelled on to Bali where he found art and culture were as one. He eventually reached Melbourne in 1934 but found the art scene there disappointing.

Ian at work in his hut, early 1950’s.

He was in India during World War 2, and once again served in the British Army and afterwards returned to Australia.and lived in a boat hull in Darwin. From Darwin, he made an amazing, tortuous and largely inexplicable voyage, in which he nearly lost his life while attempting to reach Indonesia in a leaky, home-made raft.

His raft adventure seemed to be some sort of catalyst. Sent back to England, he eventually returned to Australia, constantly searching for the appropriate solitude for his creative genius. In 1953, at the age of 62, he finally discovered peace on Bribie Island and remained here until his death in 1974.

Ian Fairweather’s Life on Bribie Island

On Bribie Island, Ian Fairweather settled in a grass hut in the bush, lit only by hurricane lamps and sharing his meagre rations with the local wildlife. Using very basic paints and canvas, or cardboard from the local tip, he created many hundreds of wonderful paintings… the fame of which did not seem to interest him. He sent his works away to be sold to dealers, art galleries and collectors around the world. These were always much sought after, but Fairweather was happy to just enjoy his creative isolation, drawing upon the rich experiences of his life.

By the 1960’s his creative genius was being recognized around the world, and it became more difficult for him to maintain his creative solitude. His fame and potential fortune had little impact on him or the residents of Bribie Island who observed glimpses of this enigmatic character, as he went about his simple life among them.

His inner feelings are reflected in his famous statement: “There may be better places than the sunset strip of Bribie Island… but it’s good enough for me.” The Council became increasingly concerned about his health and living conditions and to improve this they built him a small fibro house next to the grass hut.

Using very basic paints and canvas, or cardboard from the local tip, Ian created many
hundreds of wonderful paintings.

He was always more comfortable in the grass hut but used the house to store paintings and materials. After his death, the council burned his grass hut, and the small house was relocated into the garden of Coungeau House, Banya Street.

A stone memorial marks the site of his hut in Ian Fairweather Park on the corner of First Avenue and Hunter Street

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