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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Portrait of Tao Triebels



David Fairbairn

Australia, England, Zambia

28 Dec 1949 -


The subject of this drawing is an environmental engineer, Tao Triebels, who lives near the artist in the Macarthur region, south-west of Sydney. It is from a large ongoing series of monumental drawings of heads, all of local people and drawn from life, made by David Fairbairn over several years. In these he aims to present something of the subject’s personality, as well as appearance: ‘Ideas that are embodied in the works include contours, mapping and landscape – think of the head as something you walk across … ’ (David Fairbairn, 1999). 'Portrait of Tao Triebels' is drawn in charcoal, ink and chalk over four joined drypoint etchings. The latter were made using traditional intaglio tools as well as grinders, power tools and drills that resulted in deeply scored, printed black marks. A selection of related drawings, including other portraits of Tao Triebels, was exhibited in 'Headstrong: works by David Fairbairn' at the Casula Powerhouse in 2000.

This work won the Dobell Prize for Drawing in 1999 and was acquired by the Gallery in 1999.


Other Title

White portrait, Tao Triebels

Place where the work was made

Wedderburn Sydney New South Wales Australia



Media categories

Drawing , Print

Materials used

charcoal, white chalk, brush and black ink drawn on four sheets of white wove paper


142.7 x 110.5 cm sheet; overall; 151.7 x 121.0 x 3.8 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r.corner, pen and ink "David Fairbairn '98".


Gift of the Trustees of the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation 1999


Not on display

Accession number


Dobell Prize for Drawing

Winner - 1999

Artist information

David Fairbairn

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 9 publications


Elizabeth Fortescue, The Daily Telegraph, ‘Drawing on a well of passion’, pg. 42, Sydney, 09 Apr 1999, 42.

Prue Gibson, Artist profile [issue 5], 'David Fairbairn: using prints as the armature of painting', pg. 36-40, Sydney, Jul 2008, 38, 40 (colour illus.).

Lou Klepac, Lineage: David Gairbairn selected portraits 1998-2010, 'Drawing out the hidden image', pg. 6-9, Campbelltown, 2010, 7, 64.

Hendrik Kolenberg, The Dobell Prize for Drawing: 1993-2004, ‘Introduction: the first ten years’, pg. 8-9, Sydney, 2004, 8, 28, 29 (colour illlus.), 50, 52.

Hendrik Kolenberg, Contemporary Australian Drawing: 20 years of the Dobell Prize for Drawing, ‘Introduction’, pg. 6-14, Sydney, 2012, 9, 32, 33 (colour illus.), 60.

Hendrik Kolenberg, Look, 'Drawing the spotlight', pg. 18-19, Sydney, Jun 2002, 19 (colour illus.).

Janet McKenzie, Contemporary Australian drawing #1, 'David Fairbairn', pg. 76-77, South Yarra, 2012, 76 (colour illus.), 77.

Peter Pinson, Art and Australia (Vol. 40, No. 2), 'Common ground: four Wedderburn painters', pg. 270-277, Sydney, Dec 2002-Feb 2003, 276 (colour illus.).

Sebastian Smee, The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Lucky scratch’, pg. 15, Sydney, 23 Mar 1999, 15 (colour illus.).