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  • Hill End - History

    Hill End - History

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  • Hill End has an intriguing history of boom, bust, abandonment and renewal, which has excited and prompted, visits from hopeful miners, speculators, artists and more, seeking fortunes in the striking landscape of the region.

    Education Kit Introduction for Hill End: Art, Life and Landscape

    Gavin Wilson Independent Art Curator
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The Hill End Artists in Residence Program occupies a unique place in the Australian visual arts landscape. A beacon for artists since the late 1940s, Hill End’s distinctive blend of landscape, gold-mining history and vernacular architecture continue to attract generations of Australian artists.

  • The Hill End Artists in Residence Program has its genesis in August 1947 when Donald Friend and Russell Drysdale made a trip to explore to the former gold rush towns of Sofala and Hill End. Friend was so engaged by the character of Sofala and Hill End, that he eventually bought a little cottage in Hill End now called Murrays Cottage and lived there with his partner Donald Murray for a number of years.

    Drysdale visited regularly, as did Margaret Olley, Jean Bellette, Paul Haefliger, David Strachan and Jeffrey Smart. Eventually Jean Bellette and Paul Haefliger bought a cottage which is now known as Haefligers in the town. These artists are often referred to as the 'first wave' of Hill End artists.

     During the late 1940s and early 1950s Hill End and its cottages became miniature artistic hubs,  a number of iconic paintings were produced, including Russell Drysdale’s The Cricketers (1948), Donald Friend’s The Apocalypse of St John the Divine (1949), Margaret Olley’s Hill End ruins (1948), Jeffrey Smart’s The Nun’s Picnic (1957) and Jean Bellette’s Still Life (1955).

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  • By the end of the 1950s, the first wave of artists had moved on but the magnetic attraction of the region remained. A second wave of artists travelled to the region in the 1960s and 70s.

    John Olsen moved into Haefligers Cottage for several months in the early 1960s. He had just returned from Spain (where Bellette and Haefliger had moved), and wanted to stay out of Sydney for a while. His work inspired others, like John Firth-Smith, to explore the region. Brett Whiteley, and artist/friend Michael Johnson, would often travel to Sofala and Hill End together. They would camp in sheds and spend hours exploring the ‘fantastic forms' along Golden Gully. Whiteley continued visiting from time to time over the years.

    During 1994, when Gavin Wilson was researching the artistic heritage of Hill End and the region for his exhibition Hill End: Art, Life and Landscape for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a third wave of artists were invited to respond to the landscape. Haefligers Cottage was now under the management of the Department of Environment & Heritage NSW Parks and Wildlife Service. In partnership with Bathurst Regional Council and Gavin Wilson, a series of residencies were offered at the cottage and the foundations of the Hill End Artists in Residence Program were laid.

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  • In 1999, under the auspices of Bathurst City Council and Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, the Hill End Artists in Residence Program was officially launched.

    Contemporary artists including Richard Goodwin, Anton James, Tom Spence, Wendy Sharpe, Peter Wright, Geoff Weary, Peter Kingston, Emma Walker and James Rogers were invited to spend short periods in Hill End.

    In 2003 Murrays Cottage was refurbished with the assistance of a NSW Ministry for the Arts regional infrastructure grant and added to the Hill End Artist in Residence Program.

    Since 1999, a total of 289 residencies* have been awarded to artists from a diverse range of disciplines via the program. Each artist has responded to the evocative region in a different manner. Some respond to the shapes and colours, others to the buildings and people, still others are more introspective exploring their own feelings about the old gold-rush town.

    *Total number of residencies awarded up to March 2016
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