Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Hans Academy

Hans Heysen (1877 – 1968) was a renowned landscape artist who spent most of his working life in and around Hahndorf, South Australia. A superb draughtsman, skilled watercolourist and accomplished painter in oils, he was famous for his unique romantic-realist representation of Australian landscape, in particular of the massive gum trees in the Adelaide Hills that he so loved.

He is considered to be the first artist to visit the outback and is known for his sensitive and penetrating vision and devotion to nature. As well as depictions of the Flinders Ranges of the north of South Australia, his pen and pencil drawings and charcoal compositions evoke the quality of light in the Adelaide Hills.

Heysen donated a selection of drawings to the Hahndorf Academy which are now on permanent display. These exquisite sketches and preparatory drawings were completed over a period of fourteen years from 1906 to 1920. They reflect the artist’s love of Hahndorf where he and his wife settled in 1908, as well as his strong support of the Academy.

The Academy was a school, established in 1857, whose purpose was to provide, “a sound and good English and German education in order to enable its pupils to enter the learned professions or to prepare for commercial life.” It became a secondary boarding school teaching in both English and German with a strong reputation for art, physical education, academic scholarship, commerce and music.

Due to various financial difficulties, the building was sold several times and served many functions, including as a Lutheran teacher’s seminary, a nursing home and hospital, council offices, military headquarters, a betting shop, a dentist’s surgery, private dwellings and flats, and a recreation centre.

Eventually it became the Hahndorf Galleries and German Folk Museum, with an exhibition of Hans Heysen’s works to commemorate his 90th birthday. The subsequent programmes of works by emerging artists drew visitors from around the world, and the Academy also became well known for its concerts. The Heysen Room was dedicated to displaying the works that Hans Heysen had donated to help raise funds plus the bronze sculpture of his head by John Dowie.

Heysen’s sketches at the Academy include German Wagon, Cutting Chaff, Farm log roller, Haebich’s Smithy, Back Street Corner, Witmer’s Pump, Thatched barn, and The Road to Hahndorf. Heysen didn’t have the heart to finish this last painting, as the authorities felled the trees (although he offered them the selling price of the timber to try and save them).

The spiel at the Academy claims that the pictures Heysen donated are part of a visual archive. “The images are a reminder of days gone by; a lively German town filled with the sounds of horse drawn vehicles and children playing... the aroma of German sausage and freshly baked bread and the charm of the thatched cottages lining the main street.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved the pictures Kate especially the haystack and the gum trees. I thought the ink drawing was pretty fanyastic too. It is obviously time for a trip to Adelaide next time we visit.