Celebrated New Zealand artist Don Binney has died in hospital, aged 73.

Well known for his bird paintings, many of Binney's works also depict the west coast of Auckland and Northland and feature sea and sky.

Although unwell, Binney died of a heart attack which was unexpected and unrelated to his illness.

"It was a complete surprise and shock. He was in hospital at the time," daughter Mary Binney said yesterday.


"He was a larger than life person with a unique sense of humour. He loved nature and the west coast and he loved Auckland."

One of Binney's more famous works, Kotare over the Ratana Church, was recently sold by private collector Dick Scott and the $270,000 proceeds donated to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.

"He was delighted about that," Mary Binney said.

"He was very upset about Christchurch and was really happy his work helped in some way."

A conservationist, Binney was also a patron of the Hauturu Trust which protected Little Barrier Island.

Fellow artist Dick Frizzell said Binney's death was a great loss for New Zealand art lovers.

Frizzell worked with Binney for 16 years at the Elam School of Fine Arts and described him as the first famous New Zealand artist.

"He was in the first wave of artists in the 1960s who had a great sense of national identity as the New Zealand modernists," Frizzell said.


"He was fabulous with words and was a great personality."

Binney is survived by his wife Phillipa and daughter Mary. His first wife, historian Dame Judith Binney, died last year.

His funeral is on Friday at St Mary's Church in Parnell.