The catalogue featured in this article comes from a special art exhibition held in March 1970. It is a testament to an incredible undertaking by the Arthurs Creek State School Committee to showcase some of the finest Australian artists of the late 20th century with connections to the Arthurs Creek district.
This catalogue is now over fifty years old and was kept in the collection of Bruce Draper. It is hoped that by sharing it with a wide audience, community members will be able to add memories, photos, newspaper articles, images of artworks or other items that may shed more light on this historic event in the life of the Arthurs Creek community and of the Australian art world.
Tim Russell recalls that his father Brian Russell, who lived at ‘Kangaringa’ on the Hurstbridge Arthurs Creek Road in the early 1970’s, helped to organise the art show to benefit his son’s school. Local artists contributed and it became a valuable collection on display, featuring in newspapers of the day, with security having to be arranged due to public interest in the exhibition (Tim Russell, 2020).
As the catalogue’s introduction aptly says, “This is a unique occasion in which artists and potters of the Arthurs Creek district are exhibiting together.
It is a fitting reminder that many of Australia’s major artists have, at some time, found inspiration in and near this area. As some leave, others come to take their place.
The School Committee takes pride and pleasure in presenting this exhibition.”
Tamara Slabon’s parents SEK and Natalie Hulme lived at ‘Kurnalpi’ and were great friends of all the then Dunmoochin Artists’ Community consisting of Arthur Boyd, Frank Werther, Mirka Mora, Charles Blackman, John Perceval, Fred Williams, Albert Tucker, Valerie Strong, John Olsen and others. After the exhibition on Saturday 7th March 1970, SEK and Natalie hosted a fundraising barbeque for the school at their property. They charged an entry fee and Frank Werther built a home-made spit for roasting meat. Joe Donvito who also lived locally built a second spit. John Olsen was in charge of cooking and had a pig on one spit and a sheep on the second. However, he misjudged the cooking times required for each, and the pork was ready much sooner than the lamb, so a very long night ensued, eating one and waiting until late to eat the other. Much fun was had by all and the evening is remembered fondly (Tamara Slabon, 2021).
Samuel Edward Keith (SEK) Hulme AM QC was born 13 July 1929 in Melbourne and died 27 November 2008. In his book, The Wine Regions of Australia, John Beeston wrote that Kurnalpi in Arthurs Creek lies on the western edge of the Yarra and seems ideally suited for cabernet sauvignon. Its owner, SEK Hulme, was a leading Melbourne QC with not only a passion for great Cabernet but also a great deal of patience. He first began trial plantings at Arthurs Creek in 1975. In 1976 he planted cabernet sauvignon and the first wine from this vineyard was made in 1979. From then on, vintages came and went but no wine was released until 1992. By that time his Arthurs Creek cellars must have resembled Aladdin’s cave and he was the founder of The Arthurs Creek Estate. SEK purchased Kurnalpi in 1968 from Robert Leslie (Les) Schultz. Les Schultz was a Trustee for 31 years from 1937 to 1968 at Arthurs Creek Cemetery and there are a number of Schultz family graves in the area. In the 19th century the Schultz family excelled in the production of butter and bacon, and won many awards at both the Royal Melbourne Show and the Whittlesea Show for their produce. Milk was also sold on the Melbourne market, as was fodder for cattle and horses. Red gum firewood was sold from time to time to supplement the Schultz family income (Heritage Assessments, Shire of Nillumbik Amendment C13, Graeme Butler & Associates, 2006).
In 1951 Clifton Pugh and a circle of friends purchased 6ha at Cottles Bridge, establishing it as one of the finest artistic communes in Australia. In 2014, Shane Pugh, son of Clifton recalled “Clif was an unknown artist when he realised he wanted to paint the Australian bush and create something of his own within the bush. The pure idea was to buy in the bush, to build houses, and for artists to live in an environment that inspired their art, which is how the foundation still operates today. We still have the same philosophy as Clif did back then” (S. Hudson, The Weekly Times, Melbourne, July 2014).
In 1989 Clifton established the Dunmoochin Foundation. Upon his death in 1990 he left an art collection and extensive properties within the Dunmoochin area to this foundation. The key focus of the Dunmoochin Foundation today is to promote arts practice and research, and environmental study, by making the Foundation residential facilities accessible to a broad range of international and Australian practitioners and researchers working in artistic, educational and environmental fields. Foundation residents can access the Foundation’s art collection, the majority of which is held at La Trobe University under an affiliation agreement (The Dunmoochin Foundation, 2021).
If you can help source memories, photos, newspaper articles or other items relating to the Special Exhibition – Artists of the Arthurs Creek District 1953 – 1970, please get in touch via the Contact Us page.
With rolling hills and beautiful natural and pastoral landscapes it is no surprise that Arthurs Creek and the surrounding districts have been home to many artists over the years.
John Loxton (1903 – 1969)
Kenneth William David Jack (1924 – 1987)
John Borrack (1933 – )
Pioneers and Painters of Eltham (1971)
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Click here for links and descriptions that may be helpful for those doing their own research, or for those who simply want to know more about some of the topics touched on in Up the Creek Victoria