John Drawbridge

With an artistic career spanning 50 years, John Drawbridge worked in a variety of medium including oil and watercolour painting, prints, murals, stained glass, and textile works. He developed an abstract art which encapsulated elements of New Zealand land- and seascape, attracting international recognition, while informing the reception of Modernism in New Zealand.

Born in 1930 in Wellington, he trained at Wellington Technical College and Wellington Teachers' Training College before winning a scholarship to Central School of Arts and Crafts in London where he studied and worked for three years. He moved to Paris in 1960 for a year where he was introduced to mezzotint.

His passion for art and education drew him to teaching. Returning to London, Drawbridge worked at Isleworth Polytechnic, teaching drawing in the former mansion of Sir Joseph Banks.

In 1962 he was commissioned to produce a large mural for the new New Zealand House in Haymarket, the first of a succession of large-scale murals which now adorn various New Zealand public buildings, including the Beehive Mural in Parliament Buildings.

In 1963 he had a successful exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in London, and in 1964 returned to Wellington where he started teaching printmaking and creative studies at the Wellington School of Design, retiring in 1990.

Since the 1960s Drawbridge has an extensive number of exhibitions, both nationally and internationally. He has also won numerous awards including a Member of the British Empire (1978), an Honorary Doctorate from Massey University (2002), and an Arts Foundation Award for Patronage donation from Denis and Verna Adam, awarded posthumously in 2006 allowing the publication of “John Drawbridge” published by Ron Sang Publications in 2008.

In 2001, John Drawbridge's career was crowned by a survey exhibition, "The Wide-Open Interior", at the City Gallery, Wellington and the publication of a book of the same title by Gregory O'Brien.

Although suffering the early stages of motor neurone disease in later life, Drawbridge was still painting and exhibiting when he died unexpectedly from an unrelated acute episode in 2005.

- images courtesy of South Coast Gallery