The three gums
Arriving in Australia from Germany at the age of 6, Hans Heysen
studied at the Norwood Art School, the Adelaide School of Design
and finally in Paris. This is a magnificent example of the type of
grand landscape for which Heysen became famous. Such paintings
captured the national imagination and led to a swarm of imitators
whose work was often indifferent.
Originally offered to the National Gallery of Victoria in 1915,
The Three Gums was, according to the artist, rejected by
the board of that institution because of prevailing anti-German
sentiment during the First World War. The painting was eventually
purchased for Ballarat with funds from a bequest that stipulated
that it should be spent only on the works of Australian artists.
The irony of this was not lost on Heysen.
Heysen was not entirely satisfied with the original image, and
reworked parts of the painting setting the figure back against the
tree and raising the heads of the bullocks. The grand trees, the
sun drenched vista, the manifest strength of the bullocks and man
resting from his worthy labours all combine to create a work that
has an heroic quality, a characteristic that had not been seen in
Australian art since the grand canvases of Tom Roberts of the late