Art History: New Perspectives: Cézannism on the Snowy. Lina Bryans and Alex Jelinek at Guthega and Adaminaby
Cézannism on the Snowy. Lina Bryans and Alex Jelinek at Guthega and Adaminaby
Lina Bryans and Alex Jelinek, Snowy diorama featuring his model church for New Adaminaby and her painting Queanbeyan, 1956-57.
Today’s much-touted Snowy 2.0 has re-animated Australia’s great hydro-electric scheme of the 1950s and 60s. One of the first artists to depict its progress was the popular Melbourne portraitist and landscape painter Lina Bryans (1909-2000). She visited the Snowy in 1955 to be with her new partner, émigré architect Alex Jelinek, a builder on the Guthega Power Station. The Australian bush inspired both painter and architect, he adapting his futuristic church design for New Adaminaby (a town displaced by Lake Eucumbene), she expanding her repertoire to depict vast excavations and an immaculate Guthega Dam.
In embracing the technocratic, progressivist ideology of the Federal and State-funded Snowy Mountains Authority, the couple turned to 20th century modernist aesthetics. Bryans continued a dialogue with Cézanne, whose art she had studied anew at The Barnes Foundation, while Jelinek adapted the displaced Czech Functionalism of his youth in a soaring model of aspirational design. Issues of collaboration, gendered sensibility, and a nascent environmentalism all enter the enquiry.
Roger Benjamin is Professor of Art History at the U of Sydney. He has published widely on Matisse, French Orientalism, and Indigenous art. His autobiographical contribution to architectural history, Growing Up Modern: Canberra’s Round House and Alex Jelinek, will be published in 2022 by Halstead Press.