Brushmen of the Bush: Pro Hart

Kevin Charles 'Pro' Hart is probably the best known painter from the group known as the Brushmen of the Bush. And to announce his works I have chosen The Homestead as our Hero Image for today. But first a little about the Brushmen.

In 1973 five artists from Broken Hill (New South Wales) decided to collaborate in order to mount, originally, just one exhibition. The founding father was Eric Minchin who invited Hugh Schulz, John Pickup and Jack Absalom to be part of the group. Soon after, Broken Hill’s most famous artist, Pro Hart quickly joined them. These artists gained international attention as they showcased the art of outback Australia around the world.

It was the journalist Lorraine Hickman who first labelled these artists the Brushmen of the Bush who went on to receive critical acclaim from over 50 exhibitions they staged from 1973 to 1989 throughout Australia, as well as Los Angeles, New York, London and Rome.

Brushmen of the Bush (Credit: ABC News)

Ironically, contrary to the impression given by the above photograph, the men never actually painted together as a group. They had a vast range of styles, techniques and backgrounds which we will learn a little about.  The name Pro Hart (1928-2006) has remained better known in Australia probably because of his decision to be seen painting on carpets as part of a popular television advertisement.  Most Australians will remember this image and the perfect stain remover to erase it!

Pro Hart food and drink painting of Dragonfly on capret - Photo by Stainmaster (Credit: No. 1)

The advertising venture told a great deal about Pro Hart and his painting style which contains a whimsical touch displaying a great sense of humour. This sense of fun is found in so many of the great Australian iconic characters and events that are followed and even worshipped especially in the outback.

Race Meeting (Credit: No. 2)

And I love the title of the painting below - The Folly of the TAB and many of us know only too closely how this feels!! Overseas subscribers might not know about our weakness with horse races and that on the first Tuesday in November each year the whole nation stops to watch The Melbourne Cup. And in Victoria we even get a holiday so we can have BBQs and watch the race. Everybody does this, even if they know nothing about horse races.

The Folly of the TAB (One Tree Race) (Credit: No. 3)

But look closely at the horses. And don’t miss the pink elephant. This is my favourite Pro Hart painting.

Kevin Charles Hart was given the nickname Pro (Professor)  because during his younger days he was known as an inventor and possibly accounts for his vast variety of artistic techniques used over his life from etchings to sculpture; working with paint, welded steel, bronze and ceramics. Here is one of his early etchings titled Card Players.  

Card Players (Credit: No. 4)

But Pro Hart loved to paint race tracks. Here is another.

Racetrack (Credit: No. 5)

The characters in close are just delightful and so wonderfully capture the humour presesnt in bucket loads in the people of the Australian outback.

Folly Horse (Credit: No. 5)

Camping in the bush is just as much a feature of the bush as is horse racing. Pro Hart captures the ambience perfectly and notice how those gum trees stand guard overhead.

Camp Site (Credit: No. 9)

If you are visiting Broken Hill, the Pro Hart gallery is a wonderful place to visit. Apart from an amazing collections of his art works his studio remains set up as if he was still at work.

Pro Hart's Studio (Credit No. 6)

And outside the gallery is his painted car.

(Credit: No. 7)

Some of Pro Hart's paintings were quite different to the well known outback desert scenes.

He created some with a Paint Cannon!

Pro Hart was considered by many people in the conventional art world to be a mere showman. Many thought that although his art was popular with the common folk it was not good enough for serious attention. But Pro Hart didn’t care as he considered his critics to be a part of the "art mafia" and noted that he achieved his success without any help from the arts establishment.(

He is most remembered for his delightful, whimisical outback scenes of the locals enjoying life.

Pro Hart developed motor neurone disease in later life. He died on 28 March 2006.

The Brushmen of the Bush came from very diverse backgrounds. Pro Hart was a miner, Eric Minchin  an accountant, Jack Absalom a kangaroo shooter, Hugh Schulz a prospector and John Pickup a broadcaster. To honour their contribution to the city through art, Broken Hill City Council declared 2006 The Year of the Brushmen of the Bush and a retrospective exhibition toured 11 galleries in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria between 2006 and 2009. Tomorrow we will meet Eric Minchin and learn a little about his perspective on the outback.

In addition to creating attention on Australian Outback Art The Brushmen raised money for charity especially for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. In the 20 years from 1973 until the death of the initiator of the vision Eric Minchin in 1994, the group raised more than one million dollars.

We will leave Pro Hart with one last glimpse into his perception of the world as shown through this aquatint etching with colour montype of a Grasshopper and Reeds.

(Credit: No. 4)


  3. (Supplied:Leonard Joel)