Catherine Speck (ed.): Heysen to Heysen

Hans and Nora

Christopher Menz

 

Heysen to Heysen: Selected Letters of Hans Heysen and Nora Heysen
edited by Catherine Speck
National Library of Australia, $49.95 pb, 358 pp, 9780642277305

 

A thirty-year correspondence between two Australian artists is notable, but when the artists are father and daughter it is doubly interesting. Hans Heysen and Nora Heysen corresponded regularly throughout their lives: Hans writing from The Cedars, the family house near Hahndorf, in the Adelaide Hills; and Nora from Sydney, London, New Guinea, Pacific Islands, or wherever she happened to be. Hans Heysen is celebrated for his landscape paintings – those South Australian views of eucalypts in a landscape, which changed the way generations looked at the Australian countryside – and for his desert landscapes of the Flinders Ranges. Nora, the only one of his nine children to become an artist, is known for her still lifes and portraits. Their work is well represented in Australian public collections. Hans was unquestionably the better artist, and always had the greater reputation. Nora, however, won major prizes (including, somewhat controversially, the 1938 Archibald Prize) and managed to forge an independent career for herself; she by no means lived in her father’s shadow.

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Christopher Menz

Christopher Menz

Christopher Menz is a former Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia (2005–10) and in 2011–12 was Acting Director of The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne. Prior to these roles, he held curatorial positions at the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of South Australia, and the National Gallery of Victoria, specialising in decorative arts. He has published extensively on the decorative arts, notably the design work of William Morris, and is a regular contributor to ABR.

Published in November 2011 no. 336

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