This painting was conceived while the artist was living in Peking (now known as Beijing) in 1935-36. Fairweather had first visited China in 1929, where he was captivated by the excitement, colour and cosmopolitanism of Shanghai. He learned Mandarin and travelled with his sketchbook to Beijing, the Lake Country, and the charming towns of Hangzhou and Suzhou. But it was Beijing which captured his interest most, and he determined to return there after a few months in Melbourne in 1934.
'Tea garden, Peking' reveals Fairweather's Slade School training in figurative drawing and his awareness of both western modernism, and oriental painting and calligraphy. He made a number of related studies, including a smaller version, now in the Ulster Museum, Belfast. The painting's complex but harmonious composition, and its joyous celebration of colour and the tactile qualities of paint is central to the attraction of Fairweather's work to so many younger Australian painters.
The central motif of mother and child is repeated in many other paintings and drawings, including 'Nutmeg sifters' and 'Anak Bayan', also in the Gallery's collection. In 'Tea garden, Peking' the figure of mother and child is situated within a clear space at the heart of a microcosm of social harmony - a reflection on a cherished ideal of the artist.
Cafe scene, Peking
oil on cardboard
86.4 x 88.8 cm board; 105.0 x 108.0 x 4.0 cm frame, 86.6 x 89.6 cm sight edge
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 2004
© Ian Fairweather/DACS. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney
Shown in 3 exhibitions
The 1937 international exhibition of paintings, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 14 Oct 1937–05 Dec 1937
Australian, international and contemporary paintings:
Yin-Yang: China in Australia, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 08 Aug 2008–28 Sep 2008
Referenced in 12 publications
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 2004, 'Australian art', pg. 19-20, Sydney, 2004, 18 (colour illus.), 19.
Murray Bail, Ian Fairweather, 'Manila, Calcutta, Melbourne: "Mood & Moment"', pg. 50- 72., Sydney, 1981, 51 (illus.), 52, 232-233. cat.no. 35; figure no. 17; titled 'Cafe scene, Peking'; dated 1935
Craig Brush, Look, 'Acts of benevolence', pg. 11, Sydney, Jul 2011, 11 (colour illus.).
Craig Bush, Look, 'Years of enrichment: The society reaches another milestone', pg. 12-15, Sydney, May 2009, 13, 14 (colour illus.).
Edmund Capon, Art Gallery of New South Wales: highlights from the collection, Sydney, 2008, 99-100 (colour illus.).
Carnegie Institute, The 1937 international exhibition of paintings, Pittsburgh, 1937. cat.no. 159 O; titled 'Tea Garden in Peking'
Christie's, Australia Pty. Ltd., Christie's Australia. Australian, International and Contemporary Paintings. Melbourne 3&4 May 2004, South Yarra, 2004, 22, 23 (colour illus.). cat.no. 23
Alison Harper, The Australian art market report, 'Auction fatique sets in', pg. 10-11, Sydney, Winter 2004, 10, 11 (illus.).
Alan Mascarenhas, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Hermit's masterpiece enjoys its day in the sun', pg. 2, Sydney, 11 May 2004, 2 (colour illus.). 'Edmund Capon and Inge Grant, president of the Art Gallery Society, show off the new acquisition, 'Tea garden, Peking', yesterday'.
Barry Pearce, Look, 'Ian Fairweather's Chinese encounter', pg. 28-31, Sydney, Aug 2004, front cover (colour illus., detail), 7 (colour illus.), 28 (colour illus.), 30, 31.
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Lookout', pg. 6, Sydney, Jul 2004, 6. 7.
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Unveiling Fairweather', pg. 8, Sydney, Sep 2004, 8 (colour illus.).