painter, was born in Hamburg, Germany, on 26 August 1909, second daughter of Australians Edward and Lina Hallenstein then visiting Europe. The family came to Victoria the following year and Lina grew up in Toorak, Melbourne, and in England and France. She worked as a translator and in a bookshop before marrying Baynham Bryans in 1931. They had a son, Edward (b.1932), before separating some years later. Moving to South Yarra in 1936, Lina met William Frater and decided with his help and encouragement to become a painter. Her first works were painted early in 1937 and Basil Burdett selected her Backyards, South Yarra (1937, Joseph Brown Gallery) in 1938 for the Herald Exhibition of Outstanding Pictures of 1937. Her work was included in Burdett’s article in Studio (1938) and in the exhibition, 'Art of Australia 1788-1941’, shown at MOMA (New York) in 1941. What is probably her best-known portrait, The Babe is Wise , was painted in 1940.
Bryans went to live in a converted coach-house at Darebin in the late 1930s, which developed into an informal artists’ colony. Ada May Plante , who had long been living there, continued in residence and Bryans subsequently purchased it. Bryans, Plante, Frater, Ian Fairweather (1945-47) and other artists had studios there over the years and it was a centre for a group of writers associated with the journal Meanjin . In 1948 Bryans had her first solo exhibition. It included Nude (1945, NGV) and Portrait of Nina Christesen (1947, p.c.), both painted at Darebin, which she sold later that year and moved to Harkaway, near Berwick. She took a few lessons from George Bell in 1948 and from Mary Cockburn Mercer in 1951. In 1953 she went to America, then to France where she studied for a few months at L’Ecole Libre in La Grande Chaumière and visited Mercer in the south of France. Back at Melbourne, she once more became prominent in the city’s artistic and cultural milieu.
Landscape painting was always important to Bryans. In 1964 she experimented with abstraction and the following year visited Central Australia and painted extremely colourful modernist paintings of the Australian bush. She was awarded the 1966 Crouch Prize for Embedded Rock (1964, BFAG). The Bush 1 was the only painting sold from her second solo exhibition, held at Georges Gallery in 1966 – purchased by the National Gallery of Victoria, which awarded her a retrospective in 1982. Nevertheless, as Forwood notes (2001), her portraits 'best reveal her contribution to Australian art’. Moreover, 'her seventy-three portraits of friends engaged in the world of art and letters form a pictorial biography of Bryans herself’. Her first portrait was of Australian artist Ambrose Hallen (1937). Among the last were three studies of Adrian Lawlor (1965-66)
Bryans was a member of the Independent Group. In 1991 she rejoined the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, which she had first joined in 1940 and quit in 1966.