Nora Heysen

Nora Heysen. Women Artists. Leonard Joel Auctions

Flowers and garden life have been part of Nora Heysen’s earliest memories of the idyllic childhood life she experienced in Hahndorf. As the daughter of one of Australia’s most accomplished watercolour artists, Heysen’s practice began early in life, taking lessons with her siblings at their family home. Painting flower studies and garden scenes en plein air, these enduring memories creating a profound impact on her practice, continuing throughout the entirety of her career.

NORA HEYSEN (1911-2003)
Spring Flowers 1950, oil on canvas laid on board, 53.5 x 43.5cm | $25,000-35,000

Painted at her home in Collage Street Sydney, Still Life 1950 is a wonderful example of Heysen’s effortless ability to create a harmonious composition using daffodils, annenomies, camellias and roses. This mature piece shows her freer technique, achieved through a quicker application and looser brushwork, most likely developed while painting as an official war artist in 1943. While producing many fine portrait and figural works in New Guinea and Borneo, Heysen reluctantly saw out her posting, desperately missing home, the climate, and access to the flowers from the surrounding countryside. While under instructions to only paint the daily interactions of the troops, she was court marshalled in New Guinea when she refused to take orders until her still-life painting was complete. She recalls “I’d arranged myself a beautiful native bowl full of flowers and I was sitting in the mess painting this when I had a signal to be moved on down to Lae, and I ignored the signal, and the jeep came along to collect me and I was said ‘Go away! I’m in the middle of painting my flowers’, and I continued to paint my flowers and got into hot water over this.” [1]

While the subject of the Still Life is at the core of Nora Heysen’s oeuvre, every work is as unique and dynamic as the last, with subjects ranging from stylised vases of flora to impromptu bowls of fruit. Since this period of her war works, Heysen has narrowed her subjects almost exclusively to still life and interior scenes. Continuing to deepen her commitment and love of the subjects that take her back to cherished time in her past, creating a special intimacy between artist and viewer.

Lucy Foster, Senior Specialist, Fine Art

[1] Klepac, L., Nora Heysen, The Beagle Press Pty Ltd, Sydney 1989 p. 14

Banner Image Detail: NORA HEYSEN (1911-2003) Spring Flowers 1950, oil on canvas laid on board, 53.5 x 43.5cm | $25,000-35,000

September 2022