Modernist Connections

Collection In Focus

10 Aug –
3 Nov 2024

The Australian tropics held a fascination for many of Australia’s modernist artists, including Brett Whiteley, Ian Fairweather, Lawrence Daws, Ray Crooke, Tony Tuckson and Fred Williams.

From the 1950s to the 1980s these artists repeatedly visited the tropical islands, rainforests and beaches of Far North Queensland. Stories of how they connected with and were inspired by each other’s works are part of a fascinating chapter in the history of Australian art and are explored through works from the Gallery’s Collection in the exhibition, Modernist Connections. 

Central to the theme of the exhibition are three works by Lawrence Daws, Brett Whiteley and Ian Fairweather which were donated to the Gallery by the late Ray Crooke. Crooke had a particular connection with these artists and they created works inspired by the tropical paradise of Far North Queensland.

Lawrence Daws and Brett Whiteley had an enduring friendship that began in the 1960s. In 1961 they represented Australia at the Paris Biennale des Jeunes, and in the 1970s Daws and his wife Edit went to Bribie Island where they again spent time with Whiteley and met other modernist artists including Margaret Olley, John Olsen and Russell Drysdale.

Later Daws and his wife moved to the Glasshouse Mountains and established a studio at Owl Creek where they continued to work and welcome artists that included Brett Whiteley and his wife Wendy.  The free and easy lifestyle they shared at this time is captured in Daws’s drypoint etching titled Brett Whiteley at Owl Creek 1978, which was generously donated to the Cairns Art Gallery by Ray Crooke in 1999.

Modernist Connections explores the extraordinary friendships and connections between some of Australia’s finest modernist artists, forged largely through a shared passion for Queensland and life lived on on-the-edge in the tropics.




Selected works



Lawrence DAWS
Brett Whiteley at Owl Creek  undated
drypoint etching
51.5 x 50.5 cm
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Ray Crooke, 1999

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