David Van Nunen

D a v i d   v a n   N u n e n   O A M

Hill, Rocks, Trees

An exponent of the plein air landscape painting tradition for more than four decades, the central themes of my oeuvre are Sydney Harbour and its foreshores, Australia’s wilderness areas, national parks and botanic gardens. Invariably, my landscape subjects are informed by the vibrant palette and bold brushwork of European Fauvism. Recently, I have been exploring Chinese ink painting in relation to Western watercolour brushwork and mark-making.

David van Nunen graduated from the National Art School in 1974 and subsequently obtained a Master of Arts degree from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales.

He has been awarded a number of Artist-in-Residencies, notably the Power Fellowship, University of Sydney, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris; the Museum and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory; the Art Gallery of New South Wales (in conjunction with that institution’s 1991 Bohemians in the Bush exhibition) and Arthur Boyd’s Bundanon property, Riversdale. He was invited to represent Australia as a guest artist and judge at the Lushan International Watercolour Festival, Lushan, China (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016). In 2013, he was artist-in-residence at the Shanghai Zendai Himalayas Art Museum, Zhujiajiao, China, culminating in an exhibition there of Chinese ink and watercolour paintings based on his expeditions to Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) and Suzhou.

Since 1974, van Nunen has had over 40 solo exhibitions in Australia, the United States, France, Mexico, China and Thailand, including the Australian Embassies in Paris, Washington D.C. and Mexico City, and participated in more than 100 group exhibitions in Australia, America, France, Italy, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand and China.

He was curator of Wattle, Rose and Thistle: the Finest Watercolourists of Australia, England and Scotland, Wollongong City Gallery and Wagner Art Gallery, Sydney, 2010; co-curator, with Professor Chin-Lung Huang, President of the Taiwan International Watercolor Society, of Tradition and Transformation: Taiwan-Australia Exhibition shown at Taichung Municipal Office, Taichung City, Taiwan, and Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney (2012-2013) and co-curator with Tianya Zhou, Luohu Cultural Center, Shenzhen, China, of Australia-Shandong, shown at the Moran Arts Foundation’s Juniper Hall, Sydney, in 2017.

He has been a guest lecturer at Georgetown University, Department of Fine Arts and Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies; the Australian Embassy, Washington DC; the National University, Mexico City, Mexico; and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, among other institutions.

Among van Nunen’s awards are the Sydney Morning Herald Art Prize for Landscape Painting, The Sydney Harbour Art Award and the inaugural 2012 Kogarah Art Prize. Since 1975, he has been a frequent finalist in numerous art competititons, including the Archibald Portrait Prize and Wynne Landscape Prize (on 15 occasions) at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the NSW Parliament Plein Air Painting Prize. His many commissions include a large tapestry, based on his painting, Obirri Rock, for Darwin International airport, commissioned by the Federal Airports Corporation.

His work is represented in major public, corporate and private collections in Australia and internationally, including the National Gallery of Australia; the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney; the Art Gallery of New South Wales; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Parliament House, Canberra; New South Wales State Parliament; the National Library of Australia and numerous regional art galleries.

David van Nunen’s work has been documented in numerous international books, catalogues and art journals, including McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art (Melbourne University Press, 2006); Contemporary Australian Painting (McGraw Hill, 1992); Bohemians in the Bush (The Beagle Press, 1991); New Art One: New Directions in Contemporary Australian Art (Craftsman’s House, 1987), Arts International (Vol. XXV, 1982), Arts National, ‘David van Nunen: A New Vision of the Australian Landscape’ (1985).

He is co-author, with Linda van Nunen, of Brushes with History: Masters of Watercolour, published by The Beagle Press in 2015.

Elected a member of the Australian Watercolour Institute in 2005, David van Nunen has been AWI President since April 2009, having previously served as Vice President from 2007 to 2009. He was also a founding Executive Member of the Painters’ and Sculptors’ Association of Australia.

David van Nunen was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in the 2020 Australia Day Honours List for service to the visual arts.


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