Art in Hill End
Art in Hill End
Art in Hill End
Art in Hill End
Hill End is renowned for its contribution to the more contemporary art scene however, the landscape and its characters have been the subject of art works from the earliest days. Hill End played host to artists in various forms well before the more well-known painters of the mid-20th century.
The earliest artistic renditions of the area appeared in the Illustrated London News. There is a fascinating and indepth article covering a description of these illustrations in the LaTrobe Journal , Issue No 67, Autumn 2001.
George Lacy was one of the first to illustrate the Tambaroura goldfields. Born to BenjaminWalker Lacy, and his wife Elizabeth of London. He arrived in Sydney in July 1842 from the barque Wilmot.
He was adventurous by nature and after an indifferent start to his life in the new world, where he worked as a taxidermist, he headed to the goldfields around Ophir, Tambaroora and Sofala. Here his illustrations depict an amusing and colourful portrayal of life on the goldfields and included humorous observations on the local mining community and on government attempts to regulate their activities. These were in demand by the Illustrated Sydney News who commissioned him to illustrate their articles.
He moved on to the Victorian goldfields about 1855 and remained there for at least five years. He then spent some time as a schoolteacher in the Braidwood area, still continuing to send illustrations to newspapers. He moved back to Bathurst in mid-1876 and died there in 1878 of heart disease.
George French Angus
George French Angas was also in the area during the early years and made drawings which he published in a work in 1851 “Six views of the Gold Field of Ophir, at Summerhill and Lewis’s Ponds Creeks – drawn from nature and on stone”, by George French Angas. 1851.
More examples of work by both these artists can be found in an online album of “Sketches in Australia” held by the State Library of NSW.
By the 1870s Hill End & Tambaroora were thriving goldming towns. However, there was still time for artistic pursuits.
James Willard (married in Tambaroora in 1857) described himself on a number of official documents as a “Sculptor”. Hodge described him as “a sculptor but turned to mining then hotel keeping and finally became Postmaster and Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages at Tambaroora”. Unfortunately, we are unable to locate any examples of the type of work that Willard carried out.
“Gus” PeirceAugustus Baker Peirce, artist, miner, surveyor, theatrical performer then appeared on the scene following in the footsteps of these early photographers. “Gus” Peirce tells of his artistic activities in his memoir “Knocking about”. While he was in Hill End it was reported by the “Tambaroora Herald” (ie presumably the Hill End Times and Tambaroora Advocate)
By the following paragraph from the Tambaroora Herald, we learn that a gentleman well known in Adelaide, and still more so on the Murray, has transferred his talents and varied accomplishments to the most flourishing of the New South Wales gold-fields: – “We must congratulate Gus Pierce upon the admirable manner in which with his facile brush and inventive powers he has conferred beauty on the wall of Dodd’s Hotel, Clarke Street. He has portioned off the walls of the bar, parlors, &c, into panels, upon which he has depicted with great skill a variety of beautiful objects. Over the door leading from the bar into the passage, he has painted the figure of the Goddess of Liberty, reclining upon the back of America’s eagle, with the following legend beneath: – “We’re little, but some! You bet.’ This is the facetious Gus’s rendering of the motto of the Union – ‘E Pluribus,” etc. We have no doubt that many will be induced to follow the example of Tommy Dodds, and engage the services of one who can make of dingy bar walls and bar parlors ‘Things of beauty and joys for ever.’”
Henry Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss
American & Australasian Photographic Company
In 1872, the newly rich Bernhardt Otto Holtermann, who also had a great interest in photography, used some of his wealth to employ Henry Beaufoy Merlin and his colleague Charles Bayliss to photograph the gold producing areas and cities in NSW and Victoria for exhibition overseas. They announced to the public at large (through the Hill End and Tambaroora Times of the 3 April 1872) that they were photographing the separate claims on Hawkins Hill and the “celebrated Hill, itself, collectively”. As the glass plates had to be treated soon after taking they had a mobile photographic cart where they processed the negatives. Working as the American & Australasian Photographic Company they set up their portrait studios in Hill End (opposite the school) and at Tambaroora where they also executed over 1530 carte-de-visite portraits as well.
These images provide the most comprehensive and detailed record of nineteenth century goldfields life and, with the commissioned photographs, now form the State Library’s Holtermann archive of 3500 wet plate negatives.
There is considerable information about these photographers on the website devoted to Keast Burke, who was responsible for much of the work done on the glass plate negatives which were rediscovered at the Holtermann home in Chatswood in 1951.
Charles Bayliss moved on from country scenes and set up in Sydney where he continued to work as a photographer. The catalogue of an exhibition of his work held at the National Library of Australia can be downloaded from their site.
A. B. Clinton
Augustine Bede Clinton was another gentleman who described himself as a photographer of sorts, amongst other activities.
Augustine Bede Clinton – known as A.B.Clinton was born in New South Wales in 1854 to James and Mary Clinton. Little is known about him in his early years but it is possible that he was learning his trade with Merlin and Bayliss in Hill End. On close inspection he featured in a number of their portraits and local photographs and gives the impression that he is a member of staff at the front of the A & A studio photo in Hill End. He appeared to have a fairly flamboyant air to him and his attire was quite “artistic”. He was also captured in a group photo of unknown gentlemen in Hill End, possibly a dramatic society. He moved on from Hill End to work as a travelling photographer and by the late 1870s he was established in Queensland, having spent some time at Clermont on the way to Rockhampton.By 1877 he was strutting the boards in Rockhampton’s Theatre Royal as stage manager and a member of the local amateur Dramatic Club, where he enjoyed favourable reviews as an “actor in the truest sense of the word and decidedly a public favourite”.
In October 1879 Louis Buderus (photographer and bookbinder) announced that he had employed the services of Mr Clinton, artist, late of Mr G.H.Newman’s of Sydney, for a limited time and that he specialized in colouring their photographs. This is possibly a technique that he picked up from Merlin who had been toying with the idea before his untimely death.
He appears to have remained in the area for some time as it was reported in June 1884 that his fortunes seemed to have turned on him and he sadly he attempted suicide in the Royal Hotel in Mackay, the cause for such action was no known. He survived this deed but business must have been difficult and in November 1886 his furniture, photographs, negatives and cameras etc were auctioned off “under distraint for rent”.
In May 1887 he packed up his remaining goods and chattels and returned to his old stamping ground at Clermont, reopening his photographic establishment in his old shop. Before this, he had been working with Mr Bernays who skills were then snapped up by a rival firm of photographers in Mackay, Shaw & Co. in July 1888.
By November of the same year he headed off on a road trip Croydon with another old Clermont resident and hotelier, Leo Demke and his son, also Leo and a number of other gentlemen. It is possible that he then returned to Townsville where he supposedly spent the last 17 years of his life, dying in January 1906 as a result of fatty degeneration of the heart and syncope at the relatively young age of 51. A sad end.
Pyke & MossOther photographers in the town at this time were Mr Pyke (Pike) and Mr Moss who had a tent studio for a short time in Clarke Street.
The only real evidence that Mr Alexander Pike (Photographer) was in Hill End is the corner of the tent studio. There is also just a mention of a photograph which he produced alongside that of Merlin’s version of the same incident. (The bog hole in Clarke St Hill End) According to Alan Davies it is Alexander Pyke of Pyke and Moss.
It is possible that they then moved into more permanent premises, the “Portrait Gallery” at the rear of Mr Hart’s tobacconist store as examples of their work can be seen in frames nailed to the verandah post and in the front of L H Hart’s store in the Holtermann collection.
By the later 1890s “home grown” artists were beginning to emerge.
A. J. Fischer
Amandus Julius Fischer was the first born son of the local and well-loved Hill End doctor, Henry Fischer. He was born in 1859, and was 13 when he started attending the Hill End Public School in 1872.
When still in his teens, after only twelve months’ study, he was awarded a gold medal and several silver medals by the Academy of Arts as well as earning considerable success in colonial exhibitions. He then continued his studies overseas, heading to London and Paris for further training. On his return, from 1883 he was a regular exhibitor with the NSW Society of Artists and was appointed as an instructor with the Art Society of N.S.W. He gained recognition as a cartoonist, and prolific illustrator for books as well as the Town & Country Journal, the Illustrated Sydney News, the Bulletin and the Brisbane Boomerang.
Amandus maintained his connection with Hill End by owning and working mining leases and was known to produce numerous Hill End and Turon views in oils and watercolours. Will Carter later recalled “I remember that when that improving young Australian artist Fischer exhibited oil and water colours of Hill End scenery, grave faults were found with his colouring of the mists. I can now say the critics were wrong. Fischer’s representations were scrupulously true to nature as witnessed in the valley.”
This small study (possibly for his work which was entered in the Art Society of NSW exhibition in 1893) was included in an album of works presented to Lord Chelmsford by the Royal Art Society in 1909. (Now held in the National Library of Australia) The description of his entry the Art Society’s exhibition in the Sydney Mail of 9 September 1893 recorded that Fischer presented a big canvas titled “Looking for water on the Pyramul” in which a woman with pails walks along the dry bed of the stream. “The grey landscape is one of Mr. Fischer’s best, though the cool grey tones of the boulders in the foreground, in themselves probably true to nature, wrestle with the idea of heat and drought which is the key-note of the scene”.
Fischer died suddenly at his home in West Ryde in November 1948 aged 89.
The 20th Century
As we progress into the 20th century further mention must also be made of Hal Eyre, who also spent some of his childhood in Hill End.
Hal was born Henry Leo Eyre to William Eyre and Sarah Giles in Sofala in 1875. William was an early arrival on the goldfields from Cornwall. After his marriage to Sarah in 1861 he became a publican in Sofala, then Forbes, Lithgow and Bathurst and finally at Hill End where he purchased the Royal Hotel in 1891.The freehold of the Royal remained in the Eyre family until it was finally sold in 1967. On Williams death his wife and then his son Ozzie took over with and during the later period there were a number of other managers.
While a schoolboy Hal made the usual beginning as an artist by caricaturing his schoolmaster. Hal went to Sydney aged 16 where he attended classes at the Art Society of NSW where his artistic career was encouraged by his teacher, Julian Ashton, suggested he send a sketch to the Bulletin.
Quoted in the Mudgee Guardian of 11 June 1914 is a comment about the cartoonist. “Mr Hal Eyre the clever cartoonist of the Daily Telegraph, is a son of the wild and woolly west. His father is or was, a hotelkeeper on the other side of Mudgee and from the time he could hold a stubby pencil in his chubby right hand he displayed an aptitude for drawing men and things. In fact, the story is told locally that being asked what was to be made of the boy when he grew up, the oldest inhabitant, who had watched him from infancy and who had no eye for art or ear for music, said: ‘Blowed if I know, can’t get him to do nothing at all. All day long but drawrin’, drawrin’, drawin’ with that ‘ere pencil of his”. Now, as the outcome of a natural taste and of constant practice under the crudest conditions, Hal Eyre draws a good salary for drawing cartoons — and most of his conceptions are exceedingly luminous and highly artistic”.
Eyre moved to Brisbane in the 1890s and later, with Lionel Lindsay, he drew for a new magazine, The Review. Hal Eyre gave Australians a laugh when it was needed. Around 1908 he moved back to Sydney and was employed by the Daily Telegraph, becoming their political cartoonist and then the war cartoonist. He captured the mood, the pathos and the humour of a world at war. His cartoons mirrored the hopeful feelings of thousands of Australians as the war came to an end.
Hal was a regular visitor to Hill End and as well as being a cartoonist he wrote a collection of sketches “Hilarities – the thirty–nine indefinite articles” which included humorous treatment of some of the local Hill End characters.
Alfred Coffey was another artist who found beauty in the district. Born in Ireland in 1869, Coffey also studied at the Royal Art Society School, and taught at the Julian Ashton School and at Sydney University where he was also a lecturer on the history of art. Alfred Coffey visited the area prior to 1931 when he painted and exhibited a large and ambitious landscape, “Wallaby Rock on the Road to Hill End Goldfield” at the Royal Art Society. He also painted other landscapes in the district including some along the Macquarie River. His work is represented in the Sydney and Adelaide state galleries. He died in 1950.
The Artists of Hill End
“For almost fifty years the nineteenth century gold rush town of Hill End has attracted an extraordinary group of distinguished artists who have worked and often lived in the town and its tough historic countryside, producing some of the most enduring Australian landscape imagery of recent times”.
Gavin Wilson’s opening words of his book “The Artists of Hill End”, published in 1995, still ring true more than twenty years later. Starting with a chance visit by Russell Drysdale and Donald Friend in 1947, Hill End has seen a significant cross section of artists following in their footsteps, exploring and interpreting the unique landscape.
An amazing array of talented artists have called Hill End home for some period of their lives. Many have made the town their permanent residence, contributing their own particular skills to the local cultural community. Others have spent some time there as part of the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery “Artist in residency” in either Haefliger’s Cottage or Murray’s Cottage.
Read more about these artists in Gavin Wilson’s essay here
In 2005 The Bathurst Regional Art Gallery held an exhibition of Hill End Photographs. Titled “Frames of Reference: Photographing Hill End” this display investigated the unique cultural record of the district which has developed over the years. It drew together images by photographers who have each responded to the unique geographical, social and historical fabric of the village in truly independent ways. The catalogue includes a number of images and is available online.
Luke Sciberras and Rosemary Valedon are just two of the many artists who now live in Hill End.
The Australian Government website devoted a page to the art and artists of Hill End.
The Art Gallery of NSW also has a considerable collection of Hill End art.
Among the many artists to work in the area recently are:
|Peter Adams||Hill End Press *||Jeffery Smart|
|Lino Alvarez (La Paloma Pottery – Hill End)||Bridget Kennedy (artist in residence)||Luke Sciberras *|
|Jean Bellette||Zoe Macdonell (artist in residence)||David Strachan|
|Lee Bethel (artist in residence)||Ian Marr||Brett Whiteley|
|Mark Booth||Raquel Mazzina||Gavin Wilson *|
|Genevieve Carroll *||Bill Moseley *||Bec Wilson *|
|Liz Cuming (artist in residence)||John Olsen||Julie Williams|
|Kim Deacon *||Margaret Olley||Glenn Woodley *|
|Russell Drysdale||David Pavich (artist in residence)||Rosemary Valadon *|
|Donald Friend||Ben Quilty||Vince Vozzo (artist in residence)|
|John Firth-Smith *||Hui Selwood||Ana Young|
|Janet Haslett||Gary Shead|
|Paul Haefliger||Gria Shead|
Those with an * currently live or spend considerable time in Hill End.