Art Wednesday: Hans Heysen

I am currently in South Australia and so I thought today's "Art Wednesday" should be of a famous South Australia artist - Hans Heysen.  I have been fortunate enough to visit and tour both the home of Heysen (see below) and his studio (2nd photo) and saw many of his paintings which are just beautiful (so is his home, which is called The Cedars).

Wilhelm Ernst Hans Franz Heysen was born in Hamburg, Germany. He migrated to Adelaide in South Australia with his family in 1884 at the age of 7 (like many other German migrants). As a young boy Heysen showed an early interest in art. At 14 he left school to work with a hardware merchant, later studying art during nights at Art School in his spare time.
In 1899 a number of business people in Adelaide paid for him to study in Europe on the condition that everything he produced would become their property. Hans left in early 1900 and stayed most of his time in Paris at the Academie Julian and the Ecole des Beaux Arts. One summer he studied in Amsterdam and his last year, in Italy and Capri, was used to learn some of the different techniques in Italy.  When he returned in 1903, he did not have any money as a result of his arrangement with his 'benefactors'. Hans was now twenty-six and had to start all over again.  

In 1912 Hans Heysen had earned enough from his art to purchase a property called "The Cedars" near Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills, which remained as his home until his death in 1968 aged 90.  His family still own the home. 
 This is a photo of inside his studio - it is as he left it when he died.  It still contains a unfinished painting.  Hans Heysens daughter Nora became a War artist and her works from World War 2 hang at the War Memorial of Australia in Canberra.
Hans Heysen was a versatile artist, from painting his wife Sally (below), to still life and Australian landscapes.  However as other artists around him moved onto the abstract form (this is the period of Jackson Pollack) his art looked "old fashion" and outdated.
"Sewing" -  a painting of Heysens wife Sally. When you tour the house, you can this very spot this was painted.
"In the Flinders - Far North"
"Red Gold" - painted in 1913 and captures the herdsman journey home at the end of the day.  Painted locally near Heysens home.

The Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, visited Hans Heysen and saw a beautiful painting called “Zinnias with Autumn Fruit” (which still hangs in The Cedars) and offered Heysen a blank cheque for it. He declined, saying that the painting was not for sale. He had painted it for his wife and would not sell it.  He later painted a similar still-life especially for Pavlova and sent it to her as a gift, but she returned it: if she could not have the painting she wanted, she said, then she wanted no painting at all.  I can't show you this painting as it is still privately owned by the Heysen family and there doesn't appear to be a copy of it on the net.  But believe me is was a magnificent painting of flowers in a vase in the family dinning room.


  1. He painted so beautifully! Really enjoyed reading about him too. Of course, I have been there before, but it's been years and I was never really interested in learning about the artist before! I particularly like the painting of his wife sewing :)

  2. did he do 'little child lost' set in an australian bush scene? our mother did a beautiful tapestry of this painting

  3. I had to google it to find out, the painting I am thinking of is a McCubbin but a similar style

  4. I haven't heard of this artist, but his work is lovely!

    His house looks beautiful too...

  5. oh ok, my sister-in-law has had a copy of the one of his wife sewing and I always admire it when I visit her...just never knew who the artist was until today!
    His house is so beautiful as are his other paintings too!


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