Hans Heysen
'The saplings' 1904–06
Bequest of Millie Hay Joyner 1993
© Hans Heysen. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia

Migrating to South Australia in 1884, at the age of seven, Hans Heysen became one of the best known and most loved twentieth-century Australian landscape painters. He depicted many pastoral landscapes in both watercolour and oil from the Federation period to the First World War, and for some years beyond. He made the monumental Australian gum tree the special and central subject of his works.

Heysen painted The saplings around the time that he created Coming home 1904 and Mystic morn 1904—his first major Australian landscapes. He often emphasised the majestic grandeur of his trees by showing them from a low vantage point, but in The saplings he depicted a thicket of slender saplings looked down on from above. He captured the rough texture of peeling bark and showed a path leading into the landscape, past the gum trees, towards a sunny grassed area beyond.

After moving to Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills in 1908 Heysen’s paintings became as much about light as about characteristic Australian trees. In the 1920s he revitalised his painting during his many trips to the rocky arid region of the central Flinders Ranges.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

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