Samuel Sydney Fullbrook was born in Chippendale Sydney in 1922. As a fifteen year old, he worked as a timber cutter in Gloucester, NSW before enlisting with the Australian Infantry Forces in 1940. After five years in the army he studied art classes at the National Gallery of Victoria School under William Dargie, CBE.
Whilst earning his livelihood working on the Yarraville sugar wharf, Fullbrook painted his first portrait. In 1948 Fullbrook held his first joint exhibition at Tye’s Gallery with his National Gallery School classmate Tim Nicholl. When his father died, the artist returned to Sydney to convert his father’s shop into a studio. Fullbrook’s nomadic lifestyle took him on extensive travels as he supported his art by working as a canecutter, stockman and miner.
In 1952 he held his first solo exhibition at Waterside Workers’ Hall, Sydney. He held his second solo show in the same year at the Moreton Gallery, Brisbane. In 1960 Fullbrook returned to Sydney where he finished his paintings "Girl & Galah" and “Death in the Afternoon" which portray the artist’s enduring respect for aboriginal people. From the 1960's onwards Fullbrook’s work became more atmospheric and poetic, verging on abstract expressionism. In 1961 Fullbrook had his first work included in a Californian exhibition. In 1963 he embarked on a new phase in landscape painting after a trip to Cobar, Western NSW. The same year, his Sandhills on the Darling took out the coveted Wynne Prize. Fullbrook returned to Melbourne in 1964. His last trip to the Darling produced his significant Darling River Series. He won the Wynne Prize which he shared with David Strachan.
Fullbrook used colour to imbue his pictures with a sense of serenity. His individual style was characterised by a balanced modulation of colour, tone, line. Fullbrook’s artistic legacy is also an emotional documentation of his personal and spiritual life journey.
Although a fire in his Brisbane studio in 1971 destroyed most of his work, Fullbrook went on to work in the Darling Downs, Sydney, the Gold Coast and Melbourne. He attracted notoriety with his 1978 portrait of Sir John Kerr which now hangs in Parliament House, Canberra.
In 1983 Sam visited America and remarried. Returning to Australia he pursued his painting and passion for horse racing. In 2001, Fullbrook was named an Australia Day ambassador. Fullbrook’s work was recognised by many major awards including the 1974 Archibald Prize for his painting "Jockey Norman Stephens". His work is represented in all major Australia galleries, the Mertz Collection and Art Museum Phoenix USA and numerous commercial and private collections throughout Australia and internationally.
Aged 81, Samuel Sydney Fullbrook died and was buried in the small cemetery at Tylden, close to the land on which he had lived for the previous decade. Fullbrook is widely credited as being one of Australia’s finest portraitists. (Abstract Australis)