Max Mannix was born in 1939 in Nyah West, a small country town near Swan Hill in Victoria.
His work represents his experiences and stories from his years growing up in country towns and working on cattle stations in the Queensland outback.
Max always loved drawing and sketching and excelled at art at high school, as well as enjoying cricket and football.
When Max was 16 he left home to go droving in South West Queensland in the area around Quilpie. He spent the next 20 years, and many hours on horseback, working as a drover caring for herds of cattle, as well as in mustering camps and shearing sheds, and also as a fencer. From 1966 to 1973, Max managed a 1,300 square mile cattle station for Dalgety near Thargomindah in the far southwest of Queensland.
The “dinkum Aussie” characters and people that Max met during his time in the outback provided him with a large bank of vivid imagery for his highly entertaining paintings, that have a distinct Australian character and humour.
Despite the challenges of working in remote places that were often drought-stricken, Max was able to see the humour in life, even in the worst of situations, and this inspires much of his art. Max says of his art: “I’m a storyteller with a brush. I suppose you could say that I paint yarns.”
During his time in the outback, Max carried paper and pencil with him in a small leather bag, sketching when he had time. One of his greatest disappointments was having that bag full of drawings stolen from a pub room on one of his rare trips to town from the cattle station.
Returning to Melbourne in 1973, Max worked as a screen printer and then taught himself to paint with the help of a correspondence course from America. He also took etching lessons with George Eddy who was a print maker. After leaving work at the screen printer’s at 3:30pm, Max would paint into the wee hours of the night, mastering oil painting, and revelling in the pure colour. He saw his life spill out on canvas as he portrayed his times in the bush, before heading to work again at 7am the next morning.
Taking a massive leap of faith, Max gave up the security of his day job to become a full time artist, a giant step for him with a young family of four daughters to support. Luckily, his paintings were a hit, and Max staged his first solo exhibition at the Palette Gallery in Warrandyte. Other successful exhibitions followed.
In the late 1970’s, the Max and his family moved to the Central Coast of NSW and he opened a gallery outlet from home, predominantly creating Oils on Board, but also works using Acrylic, Watercolour and Ink, Pen and Wash, and Copper Plate. His popular work was also marketed through art dealers in Sydney, Queensland and Victoria.
Max never tires of painting scenarios from the bush, but he has also branched out into palette knife paintings, Sydney Harbour cityscapes, nudes, contemporary landscapes, a series about lawyers, and nursery rhyme characters inspired by his grandchildren.
Max’s colourful paintings have been used to illustrate several books, including: “The Wild Colonial Boy and Other Bush Ballads” (1982), “Steele Rudd: A Dad and Dave Selection” (1985), and “Australian Characters” (1989).
A dedicated and successful artist, Max works a solid six-day week. He has been a finalist in the prestigious 2015 Sulman Prize (2015) and Wynne Prize (2014); and his paintings are held in many private and corporate collections in Australia, South Africa, Germany, USA, Canada, Israel, China, New Zealand, Japan, United Arab Emirates, and more.
Original works by Max can be found hanging in the Australian Consulate Residence in Hong Kong; the Emirates Tower in Dubai; Shinjuki Nomura Building in Tokyo; the Cartier Building in Japan; AMP in Perth, MLC in Sydney, and 101 Collins Street in Melbourne.