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NORA HEYSEN (1911-2003)
“Still Life – Camellias”
Oil on Canvas
Signed Lower Right, Dated 1933
Provenance: Private Collection, Adelaide.
Ex Delmont Collection purchased from her first solo exhibition, Adelaide 1933.
This sumptuous Nora Heysen painting has a particularly distinguished provenance. It not only came from the artist’s first solo exhibition in 1933 but also it was destined for the Delmont Collection. S.R. Delmont, proprietor of Delmont’s Engraving Studio in Adelaide, was a significant pioneer in photoengraving and many talented artists were in his employ, Marjorie Hann among them. He was one of the first in Australia to produce tri-coloured halftone letterpress engravings and had a gravure press with which he was able to make gravure plates and thus reproduce valuable paintings in his possession. His eye for art, needless to say, was discerning. He purchased this Nora Heysen for the grand sum of 35 guineas. Despite being under the shadow of her famous father Hans Heysen, Nora Heysen went on to carve a remarkable career. In 1938, she was to become the first woman to win an Archibald Prize and subsequently to be the first women appointed as an official war artist.
While she was exceptionally skilled in portraiture, it has been her perceptive depiction of flowers which has engendered the great love affair from the art-buying public. No one quite captures the delicate hues of garden blooms as Heysen does. No one quite notices the glorious sheen as light clips the edge of a fresh leaf as Heysen does. And Nora Heysen’s flowers were picked fresh from the verdant Adelaide Hills gardens surrounding the Heysen family home, The Cedars in Hanhdorf. It is there she is now remembered, her painting studio preserved as if she had just stepped outside into the garden with the home now a handsome museum. And it is there that camellias still bloom.
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