Don Binney was born in Auckland, New Zealand and studied at Elam School of Art, University of Auckland, graduating in 1961. Later he was appointed as senior lecturer in painting at Elam, where he taught from 1979 to 1998. 

Binney was part of a second generation of New Zealand Regionalist painters that emerged in the 1960s, well known for his paintings of native birds, flying above Te Henga, west of Auckland. These works were mostly executed from the mid nineteen sixties through to the mid nineteen seventies. With his hard-edged stylistic treatment of these subjects demonstrating an empathy with the idea of a New Zealand nationalist school typified by 'hard light'. 

Works such as Under The Moon, 1969established his reputation as an important contemporary artist and invited comparison with the major New Zealand regionalist artists of the 1930s such as William Sutton. However, Binney has rejected such claims. Certainly, his imagery is more symbolic, with the wind-swept hills and birds suspended in flight, establishing stronger formal and metaphorical associations. These works by Binney were timely in the 1970s, capturing the interest of a counterculture whose advocacy for conservation was beginning to be heard. The freedom of working with acrylic paint and on a larger scale was also a new development at that time.

Binney is represented in the collections of the Auckland Art Gallery, Vicoria University, Wellington, University of Auckland and the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa. A monograph on Don Binney, by Damien Skinner, was published in 2003. Don Binney was awarded an OBE for services to the arts in New Zealand in 1995.

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