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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hahndorf, South Australia

The Cedars

The Studio

Main Street

Old Buildings

Droving Into The Light

Twenty five kilometres from Adelaide city is the quaint little town of Hahndorf and one of our greatest artists, Sir Hans Heysen, came from there.

He was seven years old when his father brought the family out from Germany in the 1880's. Things were tough and jobs were hard to come by and his father had to move around a lot to get work which meant that young Hans had to change schools many times. He showed a keen interest in art at an early age and loved the countryside around Hahndorf, where many other German families had settled.

When he was sixteen he went to Art School in his spare time because he had a full time job working for his father delivering farm produce. In 1897 Robert Barr Smith paid for one years tuition at the School of Design and he sold his first painting two years later.

But his big break came in 1899 when a number of business people in Adelaide paid for him to study in Paris on one condition - that everything he painted would belong to them. They gave him an allowance of four hundred pounds a year and off he went to Europe.

When he came home in 1903 he was twenty six and broke, all the money he made had gone to his sponsors. But he found a studio in Adelaide and started to paint full time and gave art classes to help with finances. Then in 1904 he married a German girl and that same year, he won his first major art prize.

In 1908 he moved his family to a rented house in Hahndorf and set about painting his great passion - the Australian bush. As his success grew, in 1912 he was able to buy The Cedars in Hahndorf and it was here he built his studio and painted most of his famous paintings.

During the first world war 1914-1918, regardless of the fact that he was a naturalised Australian, his German background caused a lot of bad feeling. The big art dealers in Sydney and Melbourne black listed him because they weren't sure where his loyalty lay so they refused to show any of his work. But when the war ended, life returned to normal.

Hans died in 1968 and his daughter Nora, the first woman to win the Archibald Prize, is the only one of his eight children to inherit his artistic genius.