The passing of John Rigby on 18 October 2012 allows us to reflect on what a senior figure in Queensland and Australian art he was. Rigby began exhibiting in 1941 as a member of the Younger Artists Group of the Royal Queensland Art Society and had some 35 solo exhibitions, principally in Brisbane but also in Sydney and Melbourne. He received several prestigious awards, including the Dante Alighieri/Italian Government Prize (1955), Australian Women’s Weekly Art Prize (1958), Caltex Centenary Art Competition (1959), H.C. Richards Prize for Landscape Painting at the Queensland Art Gallery (1960) and the Finney’s Art Prize (1965), amongst others.
Landscape and portraiture were his favourite subjects and in January 2004, the Museum of Brisbane presented ‘Portraits: John Rigby’, including many works that had been entered in important portrait competitions, such as the Archibald Prize, Doug Moran Portrait Prize and the Australian Women’s Weekly Portrait Prize. An example of Rigby’s keen interest in portraiture is seen in the Gallery’s work, Lady Cilento 1973. This portrait was hung in the Archibald Prize of 1973 and remains a sensitive tribute to this well-known and respected Queensland identity.
Apart from John Rigby’s contribution as a major artist, he admirably served Queensland in art administration. He was appointed Officer in Charge of the School of Fine Art, Queensland College of Art in 1974 and he taught there for ten years. He was a Trustee of the Queensland Art Gallery from 1969 to 1987 and helped oversee the transition from temporary premises in the city to then Gallery’s new purpose- built accommodation on Brisbane’s Southbank in 1981. John Rigby will be remembered, not just as a fine artist but also a teacher who influenced generations of Queensland artists and students.