Don Binney: New Zealand Modernist

Te Henga, Waitakere Coast, New Zealand / Alamy

Donald “Don” Binney is one of New Zealand’s key modernists, emerging in the 1960s. His career spanned more than 40 years, producing an iconic body of work instantly recognisable to New Zealanders and collectors internationally.

Binney first began painting Te Henga landscapes in the early 1960s and it was in 1963 that he had his first solo exhibition
at Ikon Gallery in Auckland, whilst working as a teacher. It was during this period that he developed his hard-edged style imbued with symbolism. Most commonly focusing on birds and the landscape as his subject matter, Binney executes his paintings with sharp definition whilst maintaining fluidity of form. 

Binney was interested in the relationship between the environment and its inhabitants, the symbiosis between them and how they impact each other. His approach to the landscape displayed a spiritual connectivity, and this further influenced his involvement with various environmental organisations and support for numerous environmental causes and conservation projects. 

DONALD BINNEY (1940-2012) Te Henga 1971, oil on board, 73.5 x 54cm | $50,000-70,000

His landscapes focused on two main regions of New Zealand – the Waitakere Coast (where Te Henga is located), and the Marlborough Sounds. In Te Henga 1971, Binney focuses on two solitary trees amidst a placid landscape. The linear qualities to the background and sky exemplify Binney’s modernist approach for which he was so revered, whilst the textural brushwork and bold outline of the trees and foreground lend themselves to a more figurative approach. 

Don Binney’s market has in recent decades seen a well-deserved uplift, commencing prior to the artist’s death when he was awarded an OBE for his services to the arts in 1995. In fact, Binney is one of only a handful of New Zealand artists to enter the “million dollar club” at auction, occurring in August 2022 when his painting Heron’s Departure, New Spring, Te Henga achieved $1,081,000 NZD. 

Leonard Joel is delighted to be presenting Te Henga 1971 in our forthcoming March Fine Art auction, the first time the work has been presented for sale since its initial acquisition in the 1970s. 

OLIVIA FULLER / Head of Art 

Banner Image: DONALD BINNEY (1940-2012) Te Henga 1971, oil on board, 73.5 x 54cm | $50,000-70,000

February 2023