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Stanley Francis Lymburner (1916–1972)

by Hendrik Kolenberg and Julianna Kolenberg

This article was published:

Stanley Francis Lymburner (1916-1972), by Geoff Hawkshaw, 1965

Stanley Francis Lymburner (1916-1972), by Geoff Hawkshaw, 1965

National Library of Australia

Stanley Francis Lymburner (1916-1972), artist, was born on 11 June 1916 at Albion, Brisbane, elder child of Australian-born parents Edmund Lymburner, surveyor, and his wife Gladys Bacon, née Jones. Francis was educated at Brisbane Grammar School and at Brisbane Technical College where he studied art under F. Martyn Roberts and won (1936) the Godfrey Rivers medal. He shared a studio, read widely, listened to classical music and was fascinated by the sea.

In 1939, against his parents' wishes, and with the financial support of Mrs Constance Beven, Lymburner moved to Sydney. He sketched at Taronga Zoological Park, joined a students' sketch club and attended evening-classes in etching at East Sydney Technical College. In 1940 he took rooms at The Rocks. Next year an article in Art in Australia featured his drawings of animals and he held his first solo exhibition, at the Notanda Gallery. Mobilized in the Militia on 1 July 1942, Lymburner was posted to the 120th Australian Special Hospital as a nursing orderly. He was discharged medically unfit on 27 November 1944.

Considered by many to be at the forefront of developments in contemporary art in Sydney in the 1940s, Lymburner belonged to the Sydney Art Group (formed in 1945). Tom Bass was a friend, as were the artists who lived at Merioola. Lymburner was good looking, bohemian and strongly attractive to women. His son Julian was born to Mavis Mace on 29 September 1944. Francis's romantic paintings—mainly of dancers, circus people and views of Sydney—were often associated with the 'Sydney Charm School', as it was called. Sydney Ure Smith published Fifty Drawings by Francis Lymburner in 1946 and (Sir) Warwick Fairfax of the Sydney Morning Herald was an early admirer, collector and patron of Lymburner's work. In 1951 Lymburner wrote reviews for the S.M.H. and won the Mosman jubilee art prize.

Following a farewell exhibition at David Jones's Art Gallery in 1952, Lymburner left for England. His years in London were lean and disappointing; he lived on the meagre sales of works sold at exhibitions in Australia, where his reputation declined in his absence. Haunting the world of theatre and music, and the Soho district, he mixed with many well-known actors, writers and artists—and Australian expatriates such as Barry Humphries—but exhibited only in a few group shows in London.

Lymburner returned to Sydney in February 1964. He exhibited widely, though without success. His style had become 'painterly' and powerfully expressionistic. In 1966 he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage which paralysed his left side. There are no known paintings dated after that year, but he continued to teach at his Park Street studio and published Lymburner (1970), a second book of drawings introduced by George Molnar. Lymburner spent his last year in a nursing home at Narrabeen. He died of ischaemic heart disease on 10 October 1972 while lunching at Jonah's Villa Al Mare restaurant at Whale Beach. Survived by his son, he was cremated. The Art Gallery of New South Wales organized a touring retrospective exhibition of his paintings and drawings in 1992.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Klepac and H. Kolenberg, Francis Lymburner Drawings (Hob, 1986)
  • H. Kolenberg and B. Pearce, Francis Lymburner (Syd, 1992), and for bibliography and exhibitions
  • Meanjin Quarterly, Winter 1950, p 111
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Sept 1951, 28 May 1952, 1 July 1970, 22 Oct 1972
  • H. de Berg, Francis Lymburner (transcript, 1965, National Library of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Hendrik Kolenberg and Julianna Kolenberg, 'Lymburner, Stanley Francis (1916–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Stanley Francis Lymburner (1916-1972), by Geoff Hawkshaw, 1965

Stanley Francis Lymburner (1916-1972), by Geoff Hawkshaw, 1965

National Library of Australia