David Fitts


David Fitts (1946 - 80) was born in Melbourne, Australia. He began studies in Fine Arts and English Literature at Melbourne University in 1964. Along with academic studies, he developed his practice in painting, drawing, and print. (In 1965 he won the M.U. Bosch art prize.) While completing his degree, Fitts enrolled part-time in Art Practice studies in 1968 at Caulfield Technical College but left after one year. He then briefly attended the National Gallery Art School (under John Brack) before leaving to concentrate on developing his own studio practice.

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Fitts’ first solo exhibitions were held in St. Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, 1972, with paintings and drawings referencing biblical texts in contemporary terms. His ‘Creation’ series of paintings were shown at the 40th International Eucharist Congress Art Exhibition, 1973. That year his work also featured in the Mornington Peninsula Art Centre (MPAC) 'New Generation Australian Painters' exhibition. In December 1973 he embarked on a personal study tour to view works of art in England and Europe.

Fitts often painted in series and in addition to early series relating to biblical texts, he created works in response to Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, including a series of collage, ‘Stations of the Cross’. Literary interests frequently informed his work; for example, a series referencing Baudelaire’s journals were published in book form along with Jack Hibberd’s translations of Baudelaire’s poetry (Le Vin Des Amants, Gryphon Books, 1977). Portraits were an important aspect of Fitts’ art practice. Other works explored questions of faith in terms of place: a series of works responded to the Streatham bushfires of 1977. Fitts also produced an extensive series of monoprints featuring urban and rural landscape.

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The inner city locality where Fitts lived was frequently a site of creative exploration and the series ‘Carlton Paintings’ was exhibited by the Ministry of the Arts, Victoria, in 1979. These works in part drew upon the poem ‘Golden Builders’ by Australian poet Vincent Buckley, who read from his poetry at the exhibition opening. In the exhibition catalogue, Patrick McCaughey writes: “The drab and blank facades of David Fitts’ cottages and street corners enforce the city of fact, its textures as well as its appearance. Yet the paintings also glow from within. Colour and light, richness and illumination, are perpetually promised. David Fitts’ Carlton is poised for renewal, awaits transformation.”

Fitts’ final works (not yet exhibited) include a series of paintings, drawing and collage.

In his obituary for Fitts in 1980, Jim Davidson, former editor of Meanjin, writes: “David followed the perilous path of many painters, a delicate balance between the physical and the metaphysical. Often there seemed to be little mediating them. But few men have had such grace: the effortless athleticism, the easy laugh, the deep earnestness. And few have had such a capacity to illuminate and to instruct.”

Solo Exhibitions

1980 David Fitts Memorial Exhibition, MPAC, Mornington
1979 Carlton Paintings, Ministry of the Arts, Victoria, Melbourne
1977 Powell Street Gallery, Melbourne
1976 Toorak Art Gallery, Melbourne
1972 Warehouse Galleries, Melbourne
1972 St. Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne (two sequential exhibitions)

Group Exhibitions

1979 David Fitts, John Scurry, Jenny Watson, Powell Street Gallery, Melbourne
1979 John McCaughey Memorial Prize Exhibition, 
1978 Geelong Art Gallery, Victoria
1977 Spring Festival of Drawing, MPAC, Mornington
1975 John McCaughey Memorial Prize Exhibition
1973 International Eucharist Congress Art Exhibition, Melbourne
1973 New Generation Australian Painters, MPAC, Mornington
1971 Pinacotheca, Melbourne
1969 Flinders Art Show, Victoria
1966 Eltham Art Exhibition, Victoria
1965 Eltham Art Exhibition, Victoria
1965 Melbourne University Bosch Society (M.U.A.U.S) Art Exhibition, 1st prize


City of Darebin Art Collection
Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne University
McClelland Gallery
Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery
Trinity College, Melbourne University
Private collections

David Fitts Archive