John Winter Pickup OAM (1931-2023): A Good and Noble Man Part Two

Here on AnArt4Life we have known the remarkable John Pickup OAM predominantly as an artist - and one of our most treasured contributors to the blog and a dearly loved friend and advisor. We also know him as the last of the famous Brushmen of the Bush - a group of five men from Broken Hill in south western New South Wales who together spent 17 years of their spare time from 1972-1989 having art exhibitions in Australia, the UK, Europe and the USA. From the sales of their paintings they donated close to $2 million (AUS) to charities, especially the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

John Pickup also painted Kingair on finals approaching Tibooburra and donated it to the Royal Flying Doctor Service to raise funds through the sale of prints and cards.

Kingair of finals approaching Tibooburra by John Pickup ©

John also donated All in a day's work to the RACQ-CQ Rescue service based in Mackay, Queensland to be reproduced as prints on canvas and greeting cards to raise funds.

Here is the painting and a news report showing John handing over his painting to RACQ-CQ Rescue. Apologies for the poor quality of the print but I have recounted the family drama which occurred resulting in John making the donation.

The painting shows the RACQ-CQ Rescue helicopter saving John Pickup's family who were marooned in their boat. The composition is perfect. The stormy unkind sky and the angry, dangerous sea have been painted with vigor and passion. You can see John's palette knife hard at work as it takes on the strength that is present in nature's forces. The vulnerable family in the small boat awaiting rescue are almost drifting out of the painting: away from safety. But high above the helicopter fights the environment and proves an equal adversary as the crew skillfully rescue the family from their plight. If you are a student of art note the way John has painted the clouds and the sea with the amazing dance of colour and line. Note also how the light on the clouds has been cleverly used to highlight the person being hauled into the helicopter.

John Pickup has become famous for his rugged, dramatic landscapes, many examples of which we have shown in the posts on his work. But as you can see he also loved water and was equally at home in creating the beauty water creates.

John Pickup paintings featuring water can be see in John Pickup: Water and much, much more.

Below is a painting John created in 180 minutes in a workshop organised for charity. The paintings were auctioned to raise funds. John recollected that: I had not been happy the the way the painting was going when we were more than halfway through, but then it seemed to finally come together and ended up by raising the most money of the six being auctioned.

We believe this painting was done by John at a time when the Macular Degeneration he was suffering from would have been quite advanced.

Untitled by John Pickup ©

We, of the AnArt4life blog, will miss JP enormously – as Rowdy Wylie commented:

JP was a “true gentleman”…. a magnificent Australian with outstanding values.. and wisdom all encompassed with his unique and admired ABC Radio Broadcasters Voice…

He brought to us in friendship and counsel the richness of the earth from the Australian outback which binds us all to the same vision of raw honesty and beauty. But he also set a model of courage and strength of character. Even though his sight was failing he continued to paint and to be challenged to capture such subjects as The ever changing sea shown below.

The ever changing sea by John Pickup ©

And quite remarkably he also continued to be very involved with his camera club taking the most amazing photographs especially of birds. To see more examples please follow this link to: Reflection: Thank you Johann Zahn through the lens of John Pickup.

We commenced this post with mention of the Brushmen of the Bush and in a few days Andrew and Anne are going to present a post summarising the works of the five artists involved in this legendary Australian group.

John often spoke to us of the wonderful camaraderie that existed between these five artists who were not only friends but who combined for nearly 20 years to exhibit their works worldwide.

In converesation with the AnArt4Life team John spoke of this time with great pride for what he and his fellow Brushmen had achieved often rubbing of shoulders with very famous people which he assured us were genuine in their love of art and their communities.

We are sure JP wouldn't mind you all knowing that his paintings have been purchased by the likes of the then Prince Charles and the famous Australian silversmith Stuart Devlin AO CMG Australian artist and metalworker who made glorious jewellery in gold and silver and who designed Australia's first decimal coinage.

Here is John meeting with the then Prince Charles at a Brushmen of the Bush exhibition in Canberra, Australia.

As John's health began to deteriorate he went to live with two of his daughters who looked after him with boundless love, respect and strength until his death on 30 January 2023.

To all his family and friends we extend our deepest sympathy. We hope that our small contribution in giving him an internet footprint of his paintings in some small way will ease their sadness.

Wherever his soul may wander, may John take time to sit down with a canvas on his knee - a palette knife and box of paints by his side - and gaze out on the beauty of the Australian landscape.

And when the day is done may he rest - with his mate Don Quixote - beneath the Southern Cross dreaming impossible dreams under a desert sky brimming with quests - with trials, tribulations and little triumphs.

Don Quixote beneath the Southern Cross by John Pickup ©

© John Pickup made a wonderful contribution to the AnArt4Life for over four years and we are so privileged that he gave his permission to share the images of his paintings so that others could enjoy his remarkable ability to capture the essence of the Australian landscape in all its forms and the characters who call it home.