Twenty Classics of Australian Art
11 November 2020


(1877 – 1968)

oil on canvas

53.0 x 56.5 cm

signed and dated lower left: Hans Heysen 1925
signed and inscribed verso: No 4 Primroses and Porcelain Hans Heysen / Ambleside / Sth Aus

$25,000 – 35,000
Sold for $88,364 (inc. BP) in Auction 62 - 11 November 2020, Melbourne

Private collection, Melbourne
Private collection, New South Wales, acquired April 2010


Exhibition of Paintings by Hans Heysen, Fine Art Society's Gallery, Melbourne, 16 – 27 November 1926, cat. 4 (label attached verso)

Catalogue text

The 1920s was a productive decade for Hans Heysen and it was at this time that he turned to still life painting when the weather was poor and prevented him from sketching out of doors. His approach to the still life subject was different and more direct than his method of painting the landscape. Sourcing flowers from his garden at The Cedars in Hahndorf, Heysen would set up an arrangement and paint directly from the motif for three or four days, before they spoiled and wilted.

Heysen held seven one-man exhibitions during the 1920s in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, and two issues of Art in Australia were devoted to the artist and his work. The Art of Hans Heysen, a Special Number of Art in Australia was published in 1920 and a second issue dedicated to Heysen appeared in 1926. Additionally, Lionel Lindsay wrote an article titled ‘Heysen’s Flower Pieces’, which featured in the June 1925 edition:

‘…In Fantin [-Latour] I feel the solicitude of tranquil afternoons; he was not a nature lover, a painter of landscape like Heysen, but entirely an indoor artist. With Heysen the desire is to portray the untarnished bloom, the vivacity of fresh-picked flowers, the breath of the morning still upon them. To catch this quality, once he has settled his arrangement, he works arduously while the light lasts,
his eye on every form, every colour relation, painting with the assurance and ease of a ripe draftsman.’ 1

The growing popularity of Heysen’s flower and still life subjects was supported by several state gallery purchases. In 1921 the Art Gallery of New South Wales purchased Flowers and Fruit (Zinnias), 1921 from the Society of Artists Annual Exhibition in Sydney, and this work was subsequently shown in the Exhibition of Australian Art in London held at the Royal Academy in 1923. The lavish still life Autumn Fruits, 1928 was purchased by the Art Gallery of South Australia in the same year, and A Bunch of Flowers, 1930 was acquired through the Felton Bequest for the National Gallery of Victoria in 1931.Primroses and Porcelain, 1925 is a particularly fine example of Heysen’s still life paintings and was first exhibited at the Fine Art Society’s Gallery, Melbourne in 1926. Depicted in extravagant detail, the tight bunch of sharply defined primroses in shades of cream and burgundy, sits beside an elaborately decorated ginger jar. Heysen’s skill is on clear display, highlighted by the array of reflections seen amidst the dark polished timber and the mirror-like platter behind the flowers.

1. Lindsay, L., ‘Heysen’s Flower Pieces’, Art in Australia, Sydney, third series, no. 12, June 1925