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J.J. Hilder and the Languages of Art

  • Kerry Heckenberg

Extract

Writing in a book published in 1918 in honour of Jesse Jewhurst Hilder (1881–1916), shortly after the artist's tragic early death from tuberculosis, Bertram Stevens declared:

Australia may well be proud of Jesse Hilder, for he is entirely her own by birth and training. His art was intuitive; what instruction he received, and the inspiration he got from other men's work, helped him but little towards self-development. His water-colours show the strong individual note of the true romantic artist; they are not like anything done previously in Australia or elsewhere.

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Notes

1 Stevens, Bertram, ‘Jesse Jewhurst Hilder’, in Sydney Smith, Ure and Stevens, Bertram (eds), The Art of J.J. Hilder (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1918), 5.

2 Souter, D.H., ‘J.J. Hilder, Water-Colorist’, Art and Architecture, 6(5) (1909): 142; Brett Hilder, The Heritage of J.J. Hilder (Sydney: Ure Smith, 1966); FergusonEdgar A., The Courier-Mail, 20 April 1966: 5.

3 Souter, ‘J.J. Hilder, Water-Colorist’: 143.

4 A version of this article was originally presented as a paper at a symposium entitled ‘The Internationalism of Australian Art: Networks of Modernity’, held at the James and Mary Emelia Mayne Centre, University of Queensland, St Lucia on 5 August 2006, coinciding with the opening of the National Gallery of Australia travelling exhibition An Artist Abroad: The Prints of James McNeill Whistler.

5 For details of Whistler's life and work plus an extensive bibliography, see Robin Spencer, ‘Whistler, James Abbot McNeill (1834–1903)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/36855.

6 See Smith, Bernard, ‘Hilder, Jesse Jewhurst (1881–1916)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 9 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1983), 292–93; Stevens, The Art of J.J. Hilder, 8 (encouragement of Addison and Jenner); also Keith Bradbury and Ann Grant, Gwendolyn & W.G. Grant: Their Art and Life (Brisbane: G.R.M. Grant, 1990), 18–19 for Cowan's influence on Grant.

7 Stevens, The Art of J.J. Hilder, 13; Ursula Prunster, ‘The Delicate Art’, in J.J. Hilder and Contemporaries (Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1981), unpaginated.

8 Country Landscape with Homestead, Bega is listed by Deutscher-Menzies as being sold at auction on 7 December 2005 and can be viewed on their website, www.deutschermenzies.com.au/cgi/dmcat.cgi?rm=display_lot&item_id=7804. The water-colour on paper picture is described as being 18.0 x 17.5 cm in size and signed and dated ‘JJ HILDER 1904’ in the lower left-hand corner. Sydney Harbour from Fort Macquarie is illustrated in Hilder, The Heritage of J.J. Hilder, plate XXII, 83. For harbour scenes painted by Streeton, Roberts et al., see ClarkJane, ‘Sydney Harbour’, in Jane Clark and Bridget Whitelaw, Golden Summers: Heidelberg and Beyond (Sydney: International Cultural Corporation of Australia, 1985), 150–52; paintings illustrated pp. 153, 157, 161, 162, 163.

9 Conder's painting can be viewed online at the Art Gallery of New South Wales website, www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au.

10 Hilder, The Heritage of J.J. Hilder, 13.

11 Souter, ‘Hilder, J.J., Water-Colorist’: 142; Stevens, The Art of J.J. Hilder, 8, 13.

12 Souter, ‘Hilder, J.J., Water-Colorist’: 142; for biographical details of Stevens and Souter, see Stewart, Ken, ‘Stevens, Bertram William Mathyson Francis (1872–1922)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 12 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1990), 77–78; and Vane Lindsay, ‘Souter, David Henry (1862–1935)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 12 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1990), 21–22; Lloyd Rees, ‘Foreword’, in Hilder, The Heritage of J.J. Hilder, 5–7, quotation 5.

13 Lahey, Vida, ‘The Development of Art in Queensland’, in Exhibition of Queensland Art (Brisbane: Queensland National Art Gallery, 1951), 3; Julie K. Brown and Margaret Maynard, Fine Art Exhibitions in Brisbane 1884–1916 (St Lucia: Fryer Memorial Library, University of Queensland, 1980), 66, 74–78. For more discussion of artistic activity in Brisbane in the late nineteenth century, see Keith Bradbury and Glenn R. Cooke, Thorns & Petals: 100 Years of the Royal Queensland Art Society (Brisbane: Royal Queensland Art Society, 1988), 9–39; and Timothy Morell and Glenn R. Cooke, ‘Somewhere Else’, in MorellTimothy, Colonial to Contemporary: Queensland College of Art 125 Years (Brisbane: Griffith Artworks, 2006), 9–29, esp. 9–12.

14 See McKay, Judith, Showing Off: Queensland at World Expositions 1862 to 1988 (Rockhampton: Central Queensland University Press in association with the Queensland Museum, 2004), 12, 48–52; Linda Parry, ‘Aestheticism’, in Michael Snodin and John Styles (eds), Design & the Decorative Arts: Britain 1500–1900 (London: V&A Publications, 2001), 358–59; for the list of art works, see Brown and Maynard, Fine Art Exhibitions in Brisbane, 37–45.

15 See entries in Wood, Christopher, Dictionary of British Art Volume IV: Victorian Painters. 1. The Text (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collector's Club, 1995), 217 (Hall), 404 (Peppercorn); also www.whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk/bio/Pepp_AD.htm.

16 Galbally, Ann, ‘Aestheticism in Australia’, in Anthony Bradley and Terry Smith (eds), Australian Art and Architecture: Essays Presented to Bernard Smith (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1980), 124–33, quotation p. 128. The Studio 9(43) (October 1896), for example, includes the following articles (both copiously illustrated): Josiah Conder, ‘Japanese Flower Arrangements’, 14–28; and ‘The Arts and Crafts Exhibition, 1896 (First Notice)’, 50–62.

17 Addison, G.H.M., ‘Ourselves’, in Queensland Art Society, Annual Review and Exhibition Catalogue (1898): 5–7, quotation 5; R. Godfrey Rivers, ‘Criticism in Art’, in Queensland Art Society, Annual Review and Exhibition Catalogue (1899), 7–11; in the same catalogue, ThistlethwayteD.S., ‘Some Notes on Japanese Art’, 12–16; and Isobel Jacobs, ‘A Few General Principles of Art’, in Queensland Art Society, Annual Review and Exhibition Catalogue (1900), 20–25, quotation 23.

18 Ashton, Julian, ‘An Appreciation’, in J.J. Hilder, Water-Colourist (Sydney: Tyrells, 1916), unpaginated; Souter, ‘J.J. Hilder, Water-Colorist’, 141; Lindsay, Lionel, ‘Hilder's Technique’, in J.J. Hilder, Water-Colourist (Sydney: Tyrells, 1916), unpaginated.

19 Stevens, The Art of J.J. Hilder, 13.

20 Illustrated in Hilder, The Heritage of J.J. Hilder, plate XXI, 81.

21 This can be viewed online at the National Gallery of Victoria website, www.ngv.gov.au/collection/international/painting/c/ipa00169.html.

22 Prunster, ‘The Delicate Art’.

23 Stevens, The Art of J.J. Hilder, 13; The Deviation (1913) [illustrated in Smith, Sydney Ure Stevens, Bertram (eds), The Art of J.J. Hilder (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1918), plate XIV] shows a more direct influence, but I am suggesting that the quarry works are a development of this theme.

24 Shallow Waters or On the Beach, Thirroul is illustrated in Hilder, The Heritage of J.J. Hilder, plate XXX, 99; Southerly on the Harbour is illustrated in Smith and Stevens The Art of J.J. Hilder, plate XV; Interior of Albers’ Home at Gordon is reproduced by Deutscher-Menzies and listed as being sold at auction on 22 September 2005, www.deutschermenzies.com.au/cgi/dmcat.cgi?rm=display_lot&item_id=7476. The water-colour on paper picture is described as being 26.5 x 18 cm in size and signed ‘HILDER’ in the lower right corner. For Gruner's beach and coastal scenes, see Barry Pearce, Elioth Gruner 1882–1939 (Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1983), 14, 30–35.

25 Queensland Art Society. Annual Exhibition. An Improved Standard’, The Brisbane Courier, 6 July 1915: 5; in Brown and Maynard, Fine Art Exhibitions in Brisbane, 148 the following works are listed in the exhibition catalogue for 1915: The Park Gate (No. 36), Dusk Near Kedron (No. 44), and Harmony in Blue and Silver, Moreton Bay (No. 45). For Hilder's Queensland visits, see Hilder, The Heritage of J.J. Hilder, 40.

26 Tebbitt, Henri, ‘Queensland and Art. A Criticism of Exhibition Work. II’, The Brisbane Courier, 9 July 1915: 6. For the first review, see Henri Tebbitt, ‘Queensland and Art: A Criticism of Exhibition Work’, The Brisbane Courier, 8 July 1915: 6. On Tebbitt and his background, see William Moore, The Story of Australian Art: From the Earliest Known Art of the Continent to the Art of To-day, Vol. 2 (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1934), 225–26.

27 Rivers, R. Godfrey, ‘Letter to the Editor’, The Brisbane Courier, 9 July 1915: 9; for Rees’ comments, see ‘Foreword’, 6.

28 Rees, Lloyd, The Small Treasures of a Lifetime: Some Early Memories of Australian Art and Artists (Sydney: Ure Smith, 1969), 94.

29 Ashton, Julian, ‘An Appreciation’, in J. J. Hilder, Water-Colourist (Sydney: Tyrells, 1916), unpaginated; Sydney Ure Smith, ‘Recollections of Hilder’, in J.J. Hilder, Water-Colourist (Sydney: Tyrells, 1916), unpaginated. For Brett Hilder's comments on the possible medical explanation for his father's later works, see his ‘Introduction’, in Jesse Jewhurst Hilder: Anniversary Exhibition (Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 1966), unpaginated. On the ‘expressive fallacy’, the idea that an artist's work is a direct spontaneous expression of their physical and emotional state rather than a deliberate creation of a specific mood utilising a language of form and colour shared by artist and sensitive viewer, see E.H. Gombrich, ‘Expression and Communication’, in Meditations on a Hobby Horse and Other Essays on the Theory of Art (London: Phaidon, 1963), 56–69; Hal Foster, ‘The Expressive Fallacy’, Art in America 71(1) (1983): 80–83, 137.

30 Lindsay, ‘Hilder's Technique’.

31 Souter, ‘J.J. Hilder, Water-Colorist’: 143; for further information about the memorial book, see Nancy D.H. Underhill, Making Australian Art 1916–49: Sydney Ure Smith, Patron and Publisher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 4, 65–67, 116, 137–38. A precursor was A Consideration of the Art of Ernest Moffitt (Melbourne: Atlas Press, 1899), but this had black and white illustrations. Moffitt (1871–99) had a similarly short life and was commemorated by his friends in this volume, including Lionel and Norman Lindsay: see Roger Butler, ‘Moffitt, Ernest Edward (1871–1899)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 10 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1986), 538. James MacDonald's Art of Frederick McCubbin, also published in 1916 (Melbourne: Lothian), is usually credited as the first Australian art monograph with colour plates; Sydney Ure Smith, ‘Memories of Hilder’, in Smith and Stevens, The Art of J.J. Hilder, 40; the poem and Hilder's illustrations are included in Smith and Stevens, The Art of J.J. Hilder (inserted between 28 and 29).

J.J. Hilder and the Languages of Art

  • Kerry Heckenberg

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