In 1972 a Sydney visitor to Broken Hill, finding Pro Hart's gallery closed, was taken by the taxi driver to Eric Minchin's gallery, where Minchin agreed to hold a charity benefit exhibition of his work in Sydney.1
The Sydney exhibition was sold out, leading to a request from Annette Shepherd, mother of two hearing-impaired children, to hold an exhibition to benefit the Council for Integrated Deaf Educaion.1
Eric Minchin did not have enough paintings for a second exhibition and so he invited his friends and fellow artists (Hugh Schulz, Jack Absalom, Pro Hart and John Pickup) to join him.
The exhibition was held on 4 April 1973 at the Grace Gallery, Grace Bros, Chatswood New South Wales, Australia and was a great success being reported on in a two page Woman's Weekly article by Lorraine Hickman as shown below. Ms Hickman referred, in the article, to the Brushmen of the Bush and thus this iconic group with their iconic name was formed.
Lorraine Hickman's article states:
Beyond the dust and the glare, the thirst and the flies lies heart-stirring beauty. A group of Broken Hill artists are offering their vision of it to cityfolk everywhere. 2
And showoff their vision of the Australian outback to everyone they did... for the next 16 years, having nearly 50 art exhibitions across Australia, and in London (twice), Rome, Los Angeles and New York.1
Five paintings, one given by each artist, were auctioned at each Brushmen opening and the artists in rotation donated another painting to be raffled. Sales of prints and postcards also contributed to fundraising.1 Over the 16 years they exhibited as a group the Brushmen donated a percentage of all sales to nominated charitable organisations totalling close to $2 million (AUD).
Following the death on 30th Jan 2023 of the last of the Brushmn of the Bush John Pickup OAM we wanted to pay due respect to the five men who made a major contribution to the cultural identity of the city of Broken Hill in south western New South Wales and who helped in the transition of Broken Hill from a town once famous for its mining industries, to a city which today is better recognised for the strength of its arts community.1
Today we want to show you a small selection of the paintings from each of the five Brushmen of the Bush. We will commence with Eric John Minchin (1928-1994) who began sketching in the late 1940s but became an accountant at the insistence of his parents that he 'have a real job'.1
Minchin was encouraged to take up painting again in the late 1960s by his aunt Violet Pugh and her son, the well known Australian artist Clifton Pugh. Clifton spent time discussing colour theory, composition and bush subjects with Eric. 1
In terms of his paintings, Eric noted that he resaw the country that I had been looking at for many years and discovered for myself its boundlessness and quietness. 1
His paintings are notable for cloud studies, stormy atmospherics, the drama of isolation, and depiction of anceint panoramic landscape... 1.
Jack Absalom OAM (1927-2019) was born in Port Augusta, South Australia and was bought up in the Nullarbor, a semi-arid treeless plain. He was a man of many talents: apart from his artistic gifts Jack, with an engineering trade qualification, worked on the North Mine head frame in Broken Hill and became the television star of an ABC production on surviving in the outback (Absalom’s Outback) where he visited remote locations in a Chrysler Sigma.3
Eric Minchin and his fellow artist friend Roy Gundry (also a Broken Hill bank manager at the time) hired Jack Absalom to take them on a 10 day day painting expedition to the Flinders Ranges...Jack watched them paint, and in his practical way, asked if he could have a go... 1. The rest really is history as he not only became one of the Brushmen of the Bush he set up a wonderful and very successful gallery in Broken Hill which is still in operation today being run by his daughter Christine Bartley who has provided the images of the Jack Absalom paintings shown below.
Jack is known for his panoramic perception of all that the Australian outback landscape can magically create in all locations and atmospheric conditions. Please follow this link to a previous post written on Remembering Jack Absalom.
The paintings of Hugh Schulz (1921-2005) and his story is well known to the blog subscribers and followers as Andrew (AnArt4Life team member) is a collector of his paintings and together we have written many post on this wonderful artist and his unique view of the beauty of the outback landscape.
Please use the blog search function to view the many post on Hugh's incredible paintings of the beauty of the Australia outback. In memory of the Brushmen of the Bush, Andrew has chosen these three Hugh Schulz paintings as representative of his style which belongs to the school of naive art but as Andrew often comments - is so varied in composition that his opinion changes daily as to which paintings are his favourites. Hugh's favourite bird was the breathtakingly beautiful Wedge Tail Eagle and so we have given pride of place to this creature. And as you will note, Hugh saw in nature the kaleidoscope of patterns and colours that combine to bring the outback to life.
Next we come to Kevin Charles (Pro) Hart (1928-2006) who spent his early childhood on his grandparents' property...east of Broken Hill and by the age of seven had begun to illustrate his school correspondence lessons at the expense of written answers. 1 Later at the Broken Hill Technical College he met May Harding who taught him some basic technical skills such as how to mix paint.1
His paintings go further than to attract attention - they entertain with whimsical characters from history and contemporary times. He pointed out however that in preferring to paint 'ordinary Australians doing everyday things' rather than landscapes, he often had to use landacapee settings to capture their activiteis. 1
If you would like to read more please click on Brushmen of the Bush: Pro Hart.
Finally to conclude and to say goodbye to the Brushmen of the Bush who were born out of the beauty of the outback and the goodness in their hearts we will sign off today with four more paintings by John Pickup OAM.
John Pickup - always a visual narrator - his paintings ooze atmospheric and environmental emotion. To quote John: I’m not a landscape painter putting on canvas an interpretation of a particular location. I prefer to let my imagination create a particular location- somewhere in the outback...
- A very special thank you to our team member and friend Andrew from the Hunter Valley Region of New South Wales for so generously providing us with professionally photographed images of the works of Hugh Schulz, Jack Absalom, Pro Hart and John Pickup and whose knowledge and love of the works of the Brushmen of the Bush has contributed greatly to our knowledge of these artists and the narrative associated with them.
Andrew was able to meet with John Pickup on a very personal level through being a collector of the paintings of the Brushmen, predominantly those of Hugh Schulz. John Pickup often expressed the great pleasure it gave hime to be able to talk to Andrew about his dear mate Hugh and the other Brushmen and to know that we are doing our best to give their works an internet footprint.
Thank you also to Sandra Lindeman (daughter of Hugh Schulz) for providing the image of the Eric Minchin painting, for her ongoing support of the AnArt4Life blog and for granting continuing permission to publish images of paintings by here father, Hugh Schulz.
Thank you to Christine Bartley for providing the images of paintings by her father Jack Absalom and for granting permission for these images to be shown on the AnArt4Life blog. If in Broken Hill please drop in to say hello to Chris and to view some Jack Absalom paintings at the Jack Absalom Gallery.
Thank you to John Hart for granting permission for the images of the paintings by his father Pro Hart to be shown on the AnArt4Life blog. While you are in Broken Hill also please visit the Pro Hart Gallery.
John Pickup made a wonderful contribution to the AnArt4Life for over four years and we are so privileged that he gave his permission to share the images of his paintings so that others could enjoy his remarkable ability to capture the essence of the Australian landscape in all its forms and the characters who call it home.
1. Brushmen of the Bush booklet produced by the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery, for the exhibition in this name held 2 June-9 July 2006.
2. Hickman, Lorraine, Brushmen of the Bush, The Australian Women's Weekly, 11 July, 1973.