Rex Backhaus-Smith
Painting - Watercolours

Born: Surat, Queensland 1935.
Resides: Sunshine Coast.

Artist Information

In 2009 Rex was a finalist for the Q150 icons in the artistic category. This was part of the celebrations for Queensland's 150th birthday.

Rex Backhaus-Smith has cemented a considerable career which is firmly grounded in the outback. Despite numerous overseas trips to experience the art of all corners of the globe, he returns almost obsessively to the bush he grew up in, still respects and frequently re-explores. His paintings portray the topography, flora, fauna and history of this unique place, but all with a rare insight of passion and spirit. His work has been most aptly described as ‘white man dreaming’ as it captures the rhythms of nature from dry to wet seasons and the migration of the emus to the man-made cycles of use and then abandonment of land. His desire to share his rich knowledge is apparent as he weaves stories into each painting, which demand exploration to unearth all of the underlying poetic treasures. In a recent interview he said “I think of (the land) as my cathedral….like a pilgrim is drawn to a holy shrine, I am drawn to the outback. My desire is to create something more lasting than a fleeting visual image, which will encourage the viewer to look more closely. Many of my paintings possess a lyrical surrealism – a dream-like quality related to nature...I believe in the spirit of things.”

The way he imparts the surprising beauty of what is usually perceived as harsh country, has opened many eyes to the subtle powers of nature. The re-growth after a burn bringing abundant wildlife in its wake; the watercourses which temporarily exist and miraculously fill with fish and life; the sculptural intrigue of anthills are all themes in Backhaus-Smith’s work, but it is his use of paint to build layer upon layer which creates not just a story, but a subtext too.

His new book, ‘Rex Backhaus-Smith – an artist’s journey’ by Jill Brannock, gives a delightful insight into how a young man seemingly destined to eke a living off the land, steadfastly followed his inherent need to educate himself, to travel and to create, but equally depicts the gentle character of a man as comfortable preparing a sheet of Arches as he is establishing a bush camp. His bush skills have often been remarked upon by those who have travelled with him along the Strzelecki Track or through the Tanami, while his artistic abilities have been admired and studied by many.

His new collection sees him return to canvas after decades working with only watercolour and gouache, but it is his understanding and depth which remain the keys to his images. Backhaus-Smith is recording the Australian outback not for nostalgic or patriotic reasons, but because the bush and art constitute his very life-blood.

"Rex is a dedicated and innovative artist who has deep feelings for the land. He has the technical and creative ability to portray, sincerely and well, what he obviously loves."
- Clifton Pugh (artist)

Such genuine sentiments show that Rex Backhaus-Smith is one of Queensland's most celebrated and inspired artists.
Having made the Sunshine Coast hinterland his home now for nearly ten years, there is plenty of inspiration from his everyday surrounds, but this has not curbed his curiosity to experience different parts of the world from Greece, Spain or Morocco to Blai, Thailand and Java and yet his greatest influence and love is the Outback. Rex's childhood and much of his life as a teacher was spent in Western Queensland and his fascination with the landscape, its creatures and historyare the sources of many major works.
He brings to life characters, stories and his own experiences sometimes realistically and sometimes symbolically, but always creating a lasting image. Rex uses figures, wildlife and colour with a flow that entices the viewer through the story of each work to glean every detail and keep seeking more. His use of windows, bubbles or ghosting allows so many different facets of a scene or moment to be portrayed and therfore continue the fascination.
Such a career is nigh on impossible to summarise; an artist who has had major exhibitions worldwide; who has had two books already written about him and beed published in many more and has acquired and international following. Yet Rex Backhaus-Smith is one of nature's true gentlemen. His skills as an art tutor continue to be appreciated by many and his paintings admired by peers and public.
For this is art from truly creative soul expressing all aspects of his life's experiences thus far.


The National Library, Canberra

Queensland Parliament House

Northern Territory Art Gallery

Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices, Brisbane

Toowoomba City Gallery

University of Southern Queensland (McGregor Collection)

Toowoomba Grammar School

Downlands College Collection, Toowoomba

The Wesley Hospital Collection

Newstead House Collection

The Oxley Library, Brisbane

The Bodley Head, London

Queensland Teachers Credit Union

Legends Hotel, Gold Coast

Tattersalls Club, Brisbane

Qantas, Brisbane

Chinchilla Art Gallery, Qld.

University of the Sunshine Coast, Qld.

And in private collections worldwide.

Corones Hall, Charleville, Qld.
T.C. Beirnies, Brisbane, Qld.
Toombul centre, Brisbane, Qld.
Tia Galleries, Toowoomba, Qld.
Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane, Qld.
Don McInnes Gallery, Brisbane, Qld.
Royal Queensland Art Society, Brisbane, Qld.
Mavis Chapman Gallery, Sydney, N.S.W.
Tia Galleries, Toowoomba, Qld.
Lowndes Lodge Gallery, London, U.K.
New Central Galleries, Brisbane, Qld.
Tia Galleries, Toowoomba, Qld.
Downs Galleries, Toowoomba, Qld.
Travelling Exhibition across Queensland visiting
Rockhampton City Art Gallery
International Hotel, Townsville
Pacific International Hotel, Cairns
Mount Isa Cultural Centre
Travelling Exhibition across N.S.W. visiting
Civic Centre, Dubbo
Civic Centre, Orange
City Hall, Bathurst
Griffith Regional Art Gallery
Adrian Slinger Galleries,,Brisbane
The Waterfall Gallery (group), Cairns, Qld.
Toowoomba City Art Gallery, Qld.
Tom Silver Fine Art Gallery, Melbourne, Vic.

Performing Arts Centre, Darwin, N.T.
Queensland House Gallery, London, U.K.
Saachi & Saachi (group), London, U.K.
Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London, U.K.
Solander Gallery, Canberra, A.C.T.
Framed Gallery, Darwin, N.T.
Adrian Slinger Galleries, Brisbane, Qld.
Downs Gallery, Toowoomba, Qld.
1994 Noosa Sheraton , Noosa, Qld.
Art Galleries Schubert, Gold Coast, Qld.
The Pottery Gallery, Mount Isa, Qld.
The Upstairs Gallery, Cairns, Qld.
Noosa Regional Gallery, Tewantin, Qld.
Adrian Slinger Galleries, Brisbane, Qld.
Tony Gill Galleries, Montville, Qld.
Art Galleries Schubert, Gold Coast, Qld.
Framed Gallery, Darwin, N.T.
Noosa Regional Gallery, Tewantin, Qld.
This exhibition toured to
Cooloola Regional Gallery,
Caloundra Regional Gallery
University of the Sunshine Coast Gallery.

"Beyond the Burnt Earth"
Tony Gill Galleries, Montville, Qld.
The Private Gallery, Sydney, N.S.W.
Cooloola Regional Gallery, Gympie, Qld.
"In the Wake of Starlight"
Tony Gill Galleries, Montville, Qld.
Gallery Dauphin (group), Singapore.
Noosa Regional Gallery (group)
Toowoomba Rotary (group)
"Travelling West"
Art on Cairncross, Maleny
at Graydon Gallery, Brisbane

Art on Cairncross, Maleny
with Judith Laws.
"Outback Odyssey"
with Tom McAulay
Art on Cairncross
at Graydon Gallery, Brisbane

White Gums Gallery, Chinchilla
Wesley Art Collection, Brisbane
30th birthday exhibition
Art on Cairncross, Maleny
Two artists, (with Judith Laws)
"an artists journey"
Art on Cairncross, Maleny
at Graydon Gallery, New Farm

Noosa Regional Gallery
Art on Cairncross, Maleny
Surat on Balonne Gallery
Stockmans Hall of Fame, Longreach.
Warwick Regional Gallery.

Toowoomba Regional Gallery
Sunshine Coast Art Prize 2010


Feature Artist

Art on Cairncross
October, 2011


Major exhibition
"Footprints on a Timeless Land"
Art on Cairncross

Major exhibition
"Rex Backhaus-Smith:
Painting Life"
University of the Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast Art Prize 2012

Art on Cairncross

Kenilworth Art Prize 2013

Tattersalls Art Prize 2013

"Major exhibition"
"Gondalas, Gaudi and Pearls of the Sea"
April 12 - 27, 2014
Art on Cairncross

Paintings by Rex Backhaus-Smith will be our first major exhibition for 2014.

"Gondolas, Gaudi and Pearls of the Sea"
Windows to lands well travelled

April 12 to 27, 2014

Recent trips to Thursday Island and Europe
will provide the inspiration for three suites of very different work from Rex.

Leading artist Rex Backhaus-Smith was a finalist in the ‘Q150 Icons’ to celebrate all the best of Queensland, when the State turned 150 years old. His wonderful career of over 40 years as a professional painter has had many such highlights, and such respect and standing has been earned from his remarkable originality and technical skills.

Born and raised in the west of the state, his contemporary paintings have been synonymous with the Outback, however, this extremely well-travelled artist has many more inspirations from which to draw.

In 2012 Rex had a near fatal accident just before a planned trip through Europe. His remarkable recovery is a measure of the man and finally allowed for a short visit to Thursday Island, followed by the European tour at the end of 2013. “Gondolas, Gaudi and Pearls of the Sea” is the culmination of this and suites of works reflect the artist’s visions of such places as Venice, Barcelona and the old pearling luggers of Thursday Island – all of which he has now revisited with a renewed insight and approach to life. Rex’s paintings have always had a story to tell, but now there is also a distinct air of joie de vivre.

This fine collection proves that not only is Rex back in full artistic flight, but that this has been strengthened to even more meaningful heights.

Paintings from this new exhibition will appear here closer to opening day April 12th.

Below are a selection of available works by the artist.

Please use the contact form at the bottom of the page to contact the gallery for prices of Rex's works.

“Dust in the Morning”
Acrylic on Canvas
150 x 150 cm
"Footprints on a Timeless Land" exhibition 2012

“A Break in the Trail”
Acrylic on Canvas
120 x 150 cm
"Footprints on a Timeless Land" exhibition 2012

“Station Man, Mungo”
Watercolour and Gouache
95 x 145 cm
"Footprints on a Timeless Land" exhibition 2012

“Windows to a Vanished Lake”
Acrylic on Canvas
80 x 120 cm
"Footprints on a Timeless Land" exhibition 2012

“Station Men”
Acrylic on Canvas
100 x 100 cm
"Footprints on a Timeless Land" exhibition 2012

“Mungo Storm Moving In”
Acrylic on Canvas
100 x 100 cm
"Footprints on a Timeless Land" exhibition 2012

“Darkly through Old Windows Now”
Watercolour and Gouache
53 x 73 cm
"Footprints on a Timeless Land" exhibition 2012

“Shadows and Grafitti”
Watercolour and Gouache
54 x 38 cm
"Footprints on a Timeless Land" exhibition 2012

“Starlight, Annies Range”
Watercolour & Gouache
100 x 150 cm

“Brolgas in the Burnt Earth”
Watercolour & Gouache
74 x 54 cm

“Bungle Bungle Light”
23 x 55cm

The limited edition prints below are from recent original works.
It is rare that prints are offered for sale by Rex.

“Red Tailed Cockatoos Foraging after the Burn”
Limited Edition Print of 25 on paper
60 x 120 cm

“Towards the Blue Sky”
Limited Edition Print of 25 on paper
80 x 60 cm

“The Burnt Tree, Mt. Rollo”
Limited Edition Print of 25 on canvas
75 x 100 cm

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Rex Backhaus-Smith's work.

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