Roland Wakelin

Born in 1887 in New Zealand,studied at the Wellington Technical School. Moved to Sydney in 1912, he died in 1971.

Roland Wakelin was born in 1887 at Grey town in the Wairarapa Valley, New Zealand. In 1902 his family moved to Wellington where Wakelin spent two years at Wellington College. In 1904 Wakelin spent three months as an office boy and then received civil service appointment to Stamp Office. In his spare time he studied painting at the Wellington Technical School under Henri Bastings and would holiday to Sydney. In 1910 he held his first exhibition at New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington. Wakelin left New Zealand to live in Sydney in 1912, enrolling in classes at the Royal Art Society of New South Wales. His teachers included Antonio Dattilo Rubbo and Norman Carter. When not at classes he worked at the Federal Land Tax Office. At the end of 1913 he met and married Estelle Robinson. During this time he was creating divisionist works in bright colours, perhaps inspired by Cezanne, Gaugin, Cubism or futurism to which he had been exposed. Wakelin served on the council of the Royal Art Society of NSW for one year during 1916. Roy de Maistre and Wakelin began an artistic collaboration in 1918 which would produce the first of Australia’s abstract works, inspired by the relationship between colour and music. The following year, Max Meldrum visited Sydney and Wakelin was attracted to his theory of tonalism, and began painting large tonalist works. In 1922 Wakelin sailed to London for three years where he worked as freelance commercial artists, also travelling to Paris. He saw the work of many artists, but Van Gogh, Gaughin and Cezanne particularly inspired his work over the next few years. On returning to Sydney in 1924, the family lived first in Dee Why then in Chatswood, where he gave Saturday classes for about a year, North Sydney and in 1939 Potts Point. 1934 he was elected to membership of the Society of Artists. His work became more romantic, depicting the harbour and intimate subjects of domestic life. In 1947 Wakelin was awarded the Society of Artists Medal jointly with George Bell and in November exhibited with the Contemporary Art Society where he became one of two vice presidents. Wakelin became a leading figure in the Sydney modernist movement exhibiting annually. In 1950 Wakelin oved to Melbourne for a year, teaching at the National Gallery School before travelling to New Zealand and then back to Sydney. In Sydney he became an Instructor in art at the School of Architecture, University of Sydney, where he taught until 1969, and he also began private classes. In 1953 he became a tutor for the Department of Adult Education and a lecturer for WEA, moving to Rose Bay and then to Double Bay. In 1986 Wakelin travelled to England, Holland, France and Italy for seven months. He received the International Co-operation Art ward in 1966. After a stroke he moved back to a ground floor flat in Rose Bay, and he died in May 1971. Wakelin exhibited extensively worldwide for over 40 years, exhibiting with both The Contemporary Group and The London Group and had a major retrospective in 1967 at the Art Gallery NSW. His works are held in the National Gallery Canberra, National Portrait Gallery, Art Gallery NSW, and many other state and regional galleries.