Don Binney, 'Ahu Ahu Southward, Karekare Beach', oil on board
Auckland born painter Don Binney has died of a heart attack while spending time in an Auckland hospital for an unrelated illness.
The renowned painter is considered one of New Zealand’s finest artists, best known for his paintings of birds and the west coast of Auckland. One of his most famous works, Kotare over the Ratana Church
, was recently sold to a private collector with all the proceeds going to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.
Binney’s death has come as a shock to his daughter, Mary, and his wife, Phillipa.
‘It was a complete surprise and shock. He was in hospital at the time,’ Mary told The New Zealand Herald
. ‘He was a larger than life person with a unique sense of humour. He loved nature and the west coast and he loved Auckland.’
Binney was born in Auckland in 1940, graduating from the Elam School of Fine Arts in 1961. Just two years later, the artist held his first solo exhibition. He returned to Elam later in life as a teacher, before retiring in 1998. His work is featured in several New Zealand galleries including the Auckland City Art Gallery and Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.
Fellow artist Dick Frizzell who worked with Binney for 16 years at Elam, spoke out about the sad loss his death brings to the New Zealand art world.
‘He was in the first wave of artists in the 1960s who had a great sense of national identity as the New Zealand modernists,’ Frizzell said. ‘He was fabulous with words and was a great personality.’
Renowned not only as a great artist, but a great conservationist, Binney’s agent Barbara Speedy told Radio New Zealand
that he will be remembered for far more than his paintings.
‘I think he would like to be remembered and will be remembered as an artist who crossed boundaries, who connected with people through art and who made them treasure their own landscape and flora and fauna,’ she said.
Art historian Hamish Keith also expressed his grief over the artist's passing.
‘He was a lovely man... his work is deservedly great, and we ought to mourn his passing, because it's not often you get artists as good as that,’ Keith told AAP