Important Australian + International Fine Art
26 November 2008

J.J. Hilder

(1881 - 1916)

watercolour on paper

12.5 x 26.0 cm

signed and dated lower right: J. J. HILDER / 1909

$12,000 - 18,000

Artarmon Galleries, Sydney (label attached verso)
Benno C. Schmidt, Orleans Farm, Esperance, Western Australia
Tony Moore, Manager, Orleans Farm, Esperance, Western Australia
Thence by descent
Private collection, Western Australia


Probably Society of Artists' Exhibition, Sydney, November 1909


Ure Smith, S., & Stevens, B. (eds.), The Art of J. J. Hilder, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1918, p. 41

Catalogue text

The watercolours of Jesse Jewhurst Hilder are unique in Australian art, owing much of their appeal to limpid washes of colour and luminous atmosphere. A master of the soft focus, Hilder delighted in the play of light and lyrical colour harmonies to transform the everyday into something of beauty and wonder. Bertram Stevens described him as having 'that passionate delight in colour which is the gift of the gods'.1 Watercolours such as Dry Lagoon, 1911, and Filling the Truck, 1914, both in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, are bathed in a golden light of 'mellow fruitfulness', a visual counterpart to the autumnal tones of the poet Keats, whom Hilder greatly admired. In others, he turned to the hour of sunset, nature's time of quietude and pervading gentleness, his nocturnes, Twilight Landscape and Approaching Evening as if seen through gauze.

The year 1909 was an important one for Hilder, witnessing his marriage to Phyllis Meadmore, and taking up painting full time. In September, they moved to Parramatta where their first son was born the following month, and this, the first of his Lennox Bridge watercolours was painted. Completed in one of the happiest times in his tragically short life, the historic bridge is bathed in the joyous warmth of spring sunlight, its image reflected in the still waters of the Parramatta River. Hilder's bridges were a favourite subject, collected by Sir Baldwin Spencer, Elioth Gruner, J. C. Traill, Dr Samuel Ewing and others. The motif features in his work from 1907 onwards, including Parramatta Bridge, 1910, and Lennox Bridge, Parramatta of December 1914 (Art Gallery of New South Wales). Designed by David Lennox, the colony's first Superintendent of Bridges, it was built with convict labour in the late 1830s, and is one of the oldest bridges in Australia. Hilder delighted in the presentation of its form and sparkling reflection, through the contrast of the warm colours of the stone with their deep shadows of blue. While a wistful charm pervades his later works, Lennox Bridge, Parramatta, 1909 is redolent with the peace and intimacy of the captured moment. The work of a romantic perfectionist, it offers a ready insight into why the first public exhibition of his work in 1907 was regarded as something of a sensation, readily winning the enthusiastic praise of Arthur Streeton.

1. Stevens, B., 'Jesse Jewhurst Hilder', in Ure Smith, op. cit., p. 5