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Australian art

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Tea garden, Peking

(circa 1936)


Ian Fairweather

Scotland, Australia

29 Sep 1891 - 20 May 1974


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.


Other Title

Cafe scene, Peking

Place where the work was made

Beijing China


(circa 1936)

Media category


Materials used

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


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Ian Fairweather

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 13 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. 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 AM, OBE, 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. 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.). 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.

John Saxby, Look, 'Farewell Judith', pg. 56, Sydney, Dec 2015-Jan 2016, 56 (colour illus.).

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.).