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Published December 6th 2016
Life of an Artist revealed
Background and History
During the finer weather, there's nothing like taking a drive through the Adelaide Hills and exploring some of the quaint towns and communities, whether it be on a weekend or during the week, when most places are less busy.
A trip to Hahndorf, classified as Australia's oldest surviving German settlement, dating from 1839 is only about a 30 minute drive from the city of Adelaide and offers much in the way of German culture, food, wine, beer and quality arts and crafts.
A pleasant diversion from the main township with the opportunity to soak up some fine art is achieved by a visit to the former home of Sir Hans Heysen, believed to be one of Australia's greatest landscape painters - The Cedars.
The Cedars is accessed from Ambleside Road on the left as you head towards the main township of Hahndorf from Adelaide, and then turning onto Heysen Road for some 500 meters, before you reach the property.
Born in Germany, Sir Hans migrated with his family to Adelaide in 1884 and by the time he turned 14, he had bought his first paint set. Formally trained in his craft both in Adelaide and Europe, Sir Hans eventually moved back to Adelaide and bought The Cedars in 1912, a property of some 15 hectares (36 acres) just outside of Hahndorf.
It was here that inspired Sir Hans the most, and a lot of his more notable paintings and sketches were crafted from scenes taken from life around his property. Seen as a conservationist way ahead of his time, Sir Hans had a strong belief in preserving the majestic eucalyptus trees around Hahndorf and bought another 100 odd acres for this to occur.
In order to really appreciate and gain a better understanding of the man and his work, undertaking a tour of the house, studio as well as the studio of his daughter, Nora Heysen is highly recommended.
The tours take around 1 hour and the volunteer guides offer up some interesting personal anecdotes and stories about the family, whilst showing you some of Sir Hans and Nora Heysen's signature art work - in fact upon entering both studios, you get the feeling that they have only just stepped out of the room, returning at any moment judging from the well-used paint brushes, canvasses, cloths and partly finished work.
The focus of the tour is on Sir Hans Heysen's studio , a building situated away from the main house overlooking the great inspiring landscape, as well as the main residence of the family. Nora Heysen's studio, together with the well-stocked shop can be viewed before or after the tour at your own leisure.
Although Sir Hans is well known for his landscapes, his still life paintings, particularly of floral arrangements almost seem to burst from the canvas with their realistic depictions. A novel feature when walking around the house, is the sight of flower arrangements which match almost completely the paintings positioned deliberately near each other.
The stories about the family are fascinating to listen to, including one about a visit to The Cedars by Anna Pavlova, the famous ballerina who proceeded to write a blank cheque in offer for one of Sir Han's signature paintings of one of his floral arrangements.
Sir Hans declined, stating that the painting had been especially gifted to his wife, Sallie and had enormous sentimental value to the family. Sir Hans then offered to paint her another similar painting and sent it to Ms Pavlova, after which she promptly sent the painting back to Sir Hans, refusing to accept anything but the original. The painting still hangs above the featured fireplace within the family home.
A fully guided tour will cost you $10 per person (with concession $8), however should you decide you prefer to do a self-guided tour, access is still given to the studios and the garden for $5.
Talent obviously ran in the family, with Sir Hans Heysen's daughter, Nora taking up the study of art as young as 15, attending the School of Fine Arts in North Adelaide.
During the 1930's Nora won numerous prizes and studied in London, before returning to Australia, eventually moving to Sydney. In fact in 1938 Nora became the first woman to win the coveted Archibald Prize.
During the second world war, Nora spent some time up in New Guinea and became the first woman appointed as an Australian war artist, with many of her sketches and drawings of Australian soldiers on display in her studio at The Cedars.
Portraitures, especially self-portraitures were some of her most outstanding work.
A stroll around the grounds of The Cedars reveals some beautiful gardens surrounding the house, which were planned and laid out in the main by Sir Hans. During Spring and Summer, the roses are in full bloom, together with the perennials, lilacs and irises, amongst other flowers, and you can easily lose yourself in amongst a sea of colour and rambling flora.
Interpretive boards on pedestals give you some idea of some of the inspiring scenery that Sir Hans would have utilised for his landscapes, all positioned at the very spots where he set up his easel and canvasses.
As the name of the property suggests, near the house are planted massive Himalayan Cedar trees, offering welcomed shade from the warm afternoon sun.
A browse around the shop at the end of your wanderings offers ample opportunity to take home some souvenirs of your visit to this historic artist's haven. There are many prints available covering a good cross-section of both Sir Hans Heysen's work as well as Nora's. There are also quality publications about the Heysen's artworks and story as well as a range of postcards, and blank cards that can be used for sending to family and friends.
The on-going preservation of Sir Hans Heysen's former home and studio is guaranteed with an announcement earlier this year that the property is to be transformed into a new world-class cultural centre, following roughly $2.5 million injection from state and federal funding.
The basic intention is to make The Cedars an artistic pilgrimage for visitors around the globe.
The only evident glaring oversight is the lack of somewhere to enjoy a morning or afternoon tea, however luckily Hahndorf is only a short drive away, spoilt for choice in both eating and refreshments.
The Cedars are open every day except Mondays and guided tours are offered between September and May at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm. Between June and August, there are only two tours per day, at 11 am and 2 pm.
The property is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 am until 4.30 pm, and is also open on Public Holidays (including Mondays) except for Christmas Day.
I concur ... a cup of tea/coffee etc in the garden/somewhere,with a cookie would be ideal...an oversight perhaps...or maybe they just never thought about it too much.Most likely,this will eventuate in due course as development gets underway.