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Ray Wallace Thorburn studied at Wellington Technical College with John Drawbridge and later at Elam in Tāmaki Makaurau. He maintained that he learned more from artists Eric Lee-Johnson, Theo Schoon, and Dennis Knight Turner, director of the Auckland City Art Gallery (now Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki) Peter Tomory, and writer A. R. D. Fairburn. He taught at Palmerston North Teachers’ College and in 1975 became Art Education Officer in the Department of Education.

Thorburn travelled a number of times to the United States of America, where he became interested in colour field painting and later in works of severe formal design. In 1971, his Modular paintings saw him selected for the São Paulo Art Biennial. In 1973, he was Frances Hodgkins Fellow at the University of Otago. In 1974, he attended Ohio State University to complete a Master of Arts. He returned there to undertake a Doctor of Philosophy in 1980.

Aotearoa New Zealand;
Date of birth
Place of birth
Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Aotearoa,
Date of death


PH & D Series No. 2

1984, 610 x 1980mm, Acrylic and pencil on plywood