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Hans Heysen (1877-1968)
Murray River Cliffs 1916
watercolour
78 x 92 cm
Gift of Howard Hinton 1939

 

Born 1877, Hamburg, Germany. Died 1968, Mount Barker, South Australia.

Sir Hans Heysen is best known for his remarkable images of the Australian bush: depictions of men and their animals among stately gum trees against backgrounds of stunning atmospheric effects. His works, in both oil and watercolour, are significant as a record of regional and rural workers of the time together with the little known landscapes of inland Australia.

Heysen migrated to Adelaide with his family at the young age of seven. He studied art after leaving school at the Norwood Art School and quickly became a successful young painter, often tramping around the Adelaide Hills with his paintbox. By 1912, after successful exhibitions in Europe and with experience as a teacher, his artistic success enabled him to purchase a property, called ‘The Cedars’, near Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. It remained his home for the rest of his life and is now operating as a museum. While the main focus of his works before 1926 was the Adelaide Hills and surrounds, from 1915 to 1917 Heysen went on four painting trips to the Murray River. In this rich-toned watercolour he captures the looming cliffs above the Murray River, with grazing cattle in the lush foreground framed by his signature gum trees.

Howard Hinton noted that Murray River Cliffs was “greatly admired in [the] Sydney exhibition in 1938 at David Jones Gallery.