Heysen was born in Hamburg, Germany, on 8 October 1877 and emigrated to Adelaide with his family in 1884. He studied at the Norwood Art School in Adelaide in the 1890s. In 1899 four wealthy Adelaide men sponsored him to undertake a study tour of Europe, where he studied at the École des Beaux Arts and Colarossi’s Academy.
In 1908 his first solo exhibition, which was held in Melbourne, was a great success. He went on to enjoy one of the most illustrious careers of any Australian artist, winning the Wynne Prize for landscape painting nine times. He was knighted in 1959 and died on 2 July 1968.
Hans Heysen is best known for his iconic renderings of the gum tree, elevating it to a symbolic, indeed spiritual, level.
In 1912 Heysen bought a property called ‘The Cedars’ at Hahndorf, a small German settlement. Richly wooded with gum trees, cedars and pines, it inspired his series of pastorals; At the Panels, painted in the early morning light, is one of these. Heysen had been deeply impressed by the naturalism of the mid-19th century French painters of the Barbizon school, especially in their transformation of quotidian rural scenes into powerful subjects. Locally, Heysen had also absorbed the lessons of the Heidelberg School artists as interpreters of light, and here captures the early morning atmosphere with remarkable clarity. This watercolour, like so much of his work, is Heysen’s paean to the natural world.
Hans Heysen (1877-1968)
At the Panels, 1920
formerly The Home Paddock, Pastoral
Watercolour on paper signed and dated lower left: Hans Heysen 1920
31.7 x 39 cm M53