Bronwyn Jean Dorothy Tricks (1923–2000) was born in Melbourne and educated at Firbank Church of England Girls Grammar School and Melbourne Technical College. She studied drawing at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School. She moved to Brisbane with her husband Fergus Yeates, studied painting with Jan Molvig, and taught drawing in the Department of Architecture at the University of Queensland. Her marriage ended in divorce and from 1959 onwards she travelled extensively in Europe and Asia. In 1966 she married Laurie Thomas (1915–1974), the gallery director and art critic, and moved to Sydney. Bronwyn Thomas was the director of the Bonython Gallery in 1971–74 and director of the Australian Centre for Photography in 1974–78.
In the last 20 years of her life, Thomas became an ardent student of Chinese art and culture. She first visited China in 1980 and subsequently studied Chinese at the University of Sydney and in Beijing. She lived in Beijing in 1989–92, teaching English and assisting galleries with exhibitions. On her return to Sydney, she continued to promote Chinese artists, especially those who had settled in Australia, and was active in organisations such as the China Education Centre (Australia).
The Bronwyn Thomas Collection was donated to the Library by Andrew Yeates, the son of Thomas, in 2001–02. Thomas had donated the papers of Laurie Thomas to the Library in 1975.
The collection contains about 200 books and periodicals mostly relating to Chinese art, including a number of works in Chinese. There are also works on Chinese history, language and literature, reprints of early travels, and translations of classical and modern authors. The books include:
Cahill, James, A History of Later Chinese Painting 1279–1950 (1976–78)
Cohen, Joan, The New Chinese Painting, 1949–1986 (1987)
Lawton, Thomas, Chinese Figure Painting (1973)
Li, Zehou, The Path of Beauty: A Study of Chinese Aesthetics (1988)
Rogers, Howard, and Lee, Sherman, Masterworks of Ming and Qing Painting from the Forbidden City (1988)
Yen, Ch`ung-nien, Beijing: The Treasures of an Ancient Capital (1987)
Yu, Zhuoyun, Palaces of the Forbidden City (1984)
Zhang, Anzhi, A History of Chinese Painting (1992).
In addition to the Chinese books, the collection contains art books collected by Thomas in her travels in Asia, the Americas and Europe. Examples are:
Harvey, Andrew, A Journey to Ladakh (1983)
Stierlin, Henri, The Art of the Maya (1981).
The personal papers of Thomas are extensive and include notebooks, diaries (1986–99), condolence letters on the death of Laurie Thomas, correspondence files, research files, exhibition catalogues, exhibition flyers and invitations, lecture notes, photograph albums and slides. The research files mostly relate to Chinese art.
The Chinese language books in the Bronwyn Thomas Collection have been integrated into the Chinese holdings in the Asian Collections and the English language items into the general collection. The personal papers, together with additional papers of Laurie Thomas, are housed in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 4921 and MS Acc 01/244.
Aland, John, Bronwyn Thomas 1923–2000, Art and Australia, vol. 39 (1), September 2001, pp. 68–9.
Pearce, Barry, Laurence Nicholas Barrett Thomas, Australian Dictionary of Biography online.
Sykes, Jill, Obituary of Bronwyn Thomas, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 June 2000, p. 42.