Heysen's Flinders Ranges watercolour returned to Adelaide

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A watercolour by Australian artist Sir Hans Heysen has been returned to Adelaide, where it was created, for auction next month after it was found in Germany.

An impressive painting by renowned Australian artist Sir Hans Heysen has been returned to Adelaide after being found in Dusseldorf in Germany.

'The Camp at Wonoka Creek' was painted by Heysen in 1932 on the first of his eleven trips to South Australia's Flinders Ranges and is thought to be his largest watercolour work.

The piece shows a herd of sheep grazing amid the ranges' rolling mountains as a shepherd and his horse rest in the shade of gum trees.

It recently came onto the market in Dusseldorf and art experts contacted Adelaide art dealer Jim Elder, who will auction it in the city next month.

Mr Elder, a specialist in Heysen art sales, says the piece is the artist's "masterpiece" and is likely to break local records by selling for between $60,000 and $80,000.

"It will break the South Australian record for a watercolour, if not the Australian record," he said.

Allan Campbell, the curator at Heysen's old home and gallery in the Adelaide Hills, The Cedars at Hahndorf, described the painting as "one of the most beautiful watercolours I have ever seen".

"He never finished his watercolours on site so it would have been completed in the studio at The Cedars," he said.

"Heysen had an incredible memory for colour. His daughter, Nora, recalled that he would sit for the first half an hour just looking at the landscape, just absorbing the colours, before he began painting."

Heysen's own records show The Camp at Wonoka Creek was in his collection until 1958 when it was sold to Sir James McGregor, a wealthy Adelaide-born wool broker and art collector.

It is thought that the painting found its way to Germany when Sir McGregor gifted it to one of his international wool industry friends.

The painting by German-born Heysen, who died in 1968, will be visible at the Elder Fine Art gallery in North Adelaide from Tuesday and auctioned in March.

South Australian icon

Heysen’s name is immortalised in several prominent South Australian landmarks, including the Heysen tunnels near Adelaide and the 1200 km walking track known as the Heysen Trail.

The trail cuts a path from coastal Cape Jervis to the Flinders Ranges.

Cedars Curator Allan Campbell says those who walk along it might get a glimpse of the majesty that inspired Heysen’s masterpieces.

“Once you see the Flinders and see the colours - wonderful ochres, reds and purples, etc, you say, ‘Hey, this guy got it spot on’.”

Mr Campbell says Heysen’s works helped bring remote parts of the country to life for many Australians.

“It was through him that Australians got to appreciate and see their country,” he says.

“There is a touch of irony that he was to become a great Australian artist of the Australian landscape, even though he was born in Germany.”

Source: AAP, SBS News

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