Obituary: Ted Binder

Ted Binder
Ted Binder

On Friday June 15, after a very short illness, Ted Binder died surrounded by his loving family. His sudden death came as great shock to his friends here in Bellingen, and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Ted and his wife Felicity moved to Bellingen from Balmain in August 2005, seeking an escape from city life. Although Ted spent most of his life in Sydney, he had an enduring love of the bush and never missed the city.

After moving to Bellingen he quickly became a well liked and active member of the community. His particular passions were the visual arts and music, and he was an enthusiastic supporter of these activities in the town.

He held strong views about the essential role that drawing plays in the visual arts and was an active member of Sue Gorrel’s Life Drawing Studio, something of an institution in the Bellingen visual arts community.

Ted also had a lifelong concern with social justice and progressive politics and was always ready to give of his time and energy to just causes. Above all, Ted was a true and generous friend always quick to help in times of need.

While in Bellingen, Ted was enjoying his retirement from a long career as a teacher of visual arts with TAFE. Clearly his major achievements came through his work as a teacher and administrator and it would be remiss of me not to mention what I know of these.

On graduating from the National Art School with a Diploma in Painting, Ted won a traveling scholarship which took him to Europe for further study. On his return to Australia he became a teacher of drawing and painting with TAFE and taught in several colleges before returning to teach at the National Art School at East Sydney in 1970, later becoming Head of Studies in 1990 until his retirement in 1996.

This was at a very difficult time in the National Art School’s history. In 1975 the Division of Fine Arts was transferred to a new institution that became the College of Fine Arts (COFA) and later a UNSW Faculty of Art and Design based in Paddington.

What remained of the National Art School at East Sydney was a much diminished and demoralised TAFE institution offering short certificate courses. However, as a result of the committed staff that remained and strong support from the visual arts community, the school survived and even began to thrive.

This was due in a large part to the ‘studio approach’ to teaching art, which dates back to the establishment of the National Art School under sculptor Raynor Hoff in 1905. The basis of this approach involved the development of perceptual skills through classes in drawing from the antique, life drawing and painting, still life and portrait painting. Similar approaches were used in teaching sculpture.

It was the commitment to these values by Ted and the staff he worked with that saw the NAS prosper and become the respected and prestigious institution which now exists. This remarkable achievement involved fighting many battles with the bureaucratic and political forces determined to bring about its demise .

Ted continued to draw and paint throughout his life. His work is represented in several state galleries and private collections and he was a three-time finalist in the Archibald Prize (1962,1963 and 1978). Despite his achievements he was a modest unassuming man with an engaging sense of humour. He leaves behind a loving and devoted family and many friends.