Special Exhibition – Artists of the Arthurs Creek District 1953 – 1970 – can you help?

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Published Feb, 2021

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Armoured Faun I, 1968, Albert Tucker, b. 1914, d. 1999. Albert Lee Tucker was a member of the Heide Circle as well as the Dunmoochin Artists’ Community. He is one of the most important Australian artists from the decades following the Second World War. Image credit: Heide Museum of Modern Art. Copyright Albert & Barbara Tucker Foundation. Courtesy of Smith & Singer Fine Art

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 an art show to benefit his son’s school.  Local artists contributed and he understands it became a valuable collection on display, was featured in newspapers of the day, and security had to be arranged (Tim Russell, 2020).

The historic significance of the contributing artists to the Special Exhibition – Artists of the Arthurs Creek District 1953 – 1970 is evident, and it is inspiring to imagine from this distance of time that such a substantial collection once stood in the Arthurs Creek Mechanics Institute at an event arranged in aid of the school next door. The artists involved were: Clifton Pugh, John Perceval, William ‘Jock’ Frater, Albert Tucker, John Serle, John Olsen, Arthur Boyd, John Howley, Charles Blackman, Fred Williams, Frank Werther, Leon Saper, Ian Cuxson, Valerie Strong, Peter Laycock, Helen Laycock, Lucy Dennis, Paul Dennis, Robert Mair, Bruce Davidson, Alma Shanahan and Julia Mair.

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, 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 the 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 and Whittlesea shows 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.

Image of page 1 of the original 1970 hand-typed catalogue. Artists of the Arthurs Creek District 1953 - 1970. A special Exhibition, in the Mechanics' Institute, arranged by the State School Committee, in aid of the school, 7-9 March 1970.
Image of page 2 of the original 1970 hand-typed catalogue. Artists of the Arthurs Creek District 1953 - 1970. A special Exhibition, in the Mechanics' Institute, arranged by the State School Committee, in aid of the school, 7-9 March 1970.
Image of page 3 of the original 1970 hand-typed catalogue. Artists of the Arthurs Creek District 1953 - 1970. A special Exhibition, in the Mechanics' Institute, arranged by the State School Committee, in aid of the school, 7-9 March 1970.
Image of page 4 of the original 1970 hand-typed catalogue. Artists of the Arthurs Creek District 1953 - 1970. A special Exhibition, in the Mechanics' Institute, arranged by the State School Committee, in aid of the school, 7-9 March 1970.
Image of page 5 of the original 1970 hand-typed catalogue. Artists of the Arthurs Creek District 1953 - 1970. A special Exhibition, in the Mechanics' Institute, arranged by the State School Committee, in aid of the school, 7-9 March 1970.
Image of page 6 of the original 1970 hand-typed catalogue. Artists of the Arthurs Creek District 1953 - 1970. A special Exhibition, in the Mechanics' Institute, arranged by the State School Committee, in aid of the school, 7-9 March 1970.
Image of page 7 of the original 1970 hand-typed catalogue. Artists of the Arthurs Creek District 1953 - 1970. A special Exhibition, in the Mechanics' Institute, arranged by the State School Committee, in aid of the school, 7-9 March 1970.
Echidna, 1968, Clifton Pugh, b. 1924, d. 1990. Clifton Pugh AO was a three-time winner of Australia's Archibald Prize. Image credit: Australian and New Zealand Art Sales Digest. Copyright all rights reserved. Clifton Pugh 1968
Eltham, 1914, William Jock Frater, b. 1890, d. 1974. In 1974 William ‘Jock’ Frater was appointed OBE for his services to art. In 1979 Albert Tucker said that when he "heard about people like George Bell and Jock Frater and Cezanne...I had this sudden extreme and rapid expansion of consciousness and vision”. Image credit: Australian and New Zealand Art Sales Digest. Courtesy of Colville Gallery. Copyright William Jock Frater or assignee
The Hull, Williamstown, 1956, John Perceval, b. 1923, d. 2000. John de Burgh Perceval AO was the last surviving member of a group known as the Angry Penguins who redefined Australian art in the 1940s. Image credit: Gould Galleries. Copyright all rights reserved. John Perceval 1956
Untitled (Bush), 1966, John Serle, b. 1928. Image credit: From the collection of Nillumbik Shire Council, Victorian Collections. John Serle studied under Clifton Pugh in the 1950’s, and later in France. His work is represented in the La Trobe University Collection, the Nillumbik Shire Council Collection and private collections. His work titled Panton Hill is familiar to many residents of the area. Copyright all rights reserved. John Serle 1966
John Olsen with Frank McDonald standing under Summer In The You Beaut Country in 1962. (Supplied: National Gallery of Victoria, David Moore). John Henry Olsen AO OBE was winner of the 2005 Archibald Prize. He was awarded the Wynne Prize in 1969 for The Chasing Bird Landscape and in 1985 for A Road to Clarendon: Autumn. Image credit: abc.net.au - John Olsen retrospective: More than 100 artworks capture Australian landscape, by Stephanie Ferrier, 15 Sep 2016
The expulsion, 1947-1948, Arthur Boyd, b. 1920, d. 1999. Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd AC OBE was a leading Australian painter and member of the Antipodeans, a group of Melbourne painters that also included Clifton Pugh, David Boyd, John Brack, Robert Dickerson, John Perceval and Charles Blackman. Image credit: Art Gallery of NSW. Copyright Bundanon Trust
The keeper of skulls, 1973, John Howley, b. 1931, d. 2020. John Howley’s work includes commissioned murals at Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport and The Royal Children's Hospital. He studied at the National Gallery School of Art in Melbourne under Murray Griffin. Image credit: Australian Galleries. Copyright all rights reserved. John Howley 1973
Girl on Park Bench, 1961, Charles Blackman, b. 1928, d. 2018. Charles Raymond Blackman OBE was particulary noted for his series of the 1950s, The Schoolgirl, Avonsleigh and Alice in Wonderland. A portrait of Blackman by Jon Molvig won the Archibald Prize in 1966. Image credit: WikiArt Visual Art Encyclopedia. Copyright all rights reserved. Charles Blackman 1961
Hillside at Lysterfield, 1965-1966, Fred Williams, b. 1927, d. 1982. Frederick Ronald Williams OBE was one of Australia’s most important artists, and one of the twentieth century's major landscapists. He won the Wynne Prize for landscape painting twice; in 1966 with Upwey Landscape and in 1976 with Mt. Kosciusko. Image credit: Art Gallery of NSW. Copyright Estate of Fred Williams
Bush Homestead, 1965, Frank Werther, b. 1922, d. 2010. ''Landscape filtered through abstraction'' is the description of Frank's work from the Australian artist Rick Amor, a long-time friend and for years his neighbour in the Dunmoochin community near Eltham. Along with fellow artist Clifton Pugh and others, they established that community in what was then rural gum forest and farmland country a comfortable distance from Melbourne. Image credit: Australian and New Zealand Art Sales Digest. Courtesy of Lawsons. Copyright Frank Werther or assignee
Leon Saper residence, 60 Dunmoochin Road, Cottlesbridge, 26 May 1991, Leon Saper, b. 1928, d. 2005. Dunmoochin was established by the famous artist Clifton Pugh along with a circle of friends. The Artists' Collective also gives an informal name to the surrounding area at Cottles Bridge where artists, conservationists and like-minded people have made their homes. Information and image credit: Eltham District Historical Society Inc, Victorian Collections
Summer Vibrations, Valerie Strong, d. 2011. In 1983 she won the Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of NSW for her watercolour titled Spring Pond with Bells. In 1962, she married fellow artist John Henry Olsen. Image credit: Tim Olsen Gallery. Copyright all rights reserved. Valerie Strong
Casserole Dish, Helen Laycock, b. 1931, d. 2011. Works by Helen Laycock are held at the National Gallery of Victoria, The Castlemaine Art Museum and the Nillumbik Shire Council in addition to private collections. Image credit: From the collection of Nillumbik Shire Council, Victorian Collections
Milk jug and sugar bowl, 1980’s, Robert Mair, b. 1943. Works by Robert Mair are held at the Art Gallery of NSW and he exhibited at locations including Australian Galleries, Melbourne and Lidums Gallery, Adelaide. Image credit: Australian Pottery at Bemboka
Pale Blue Jug, Bruce Davidson, b. 1931. Bruce Davidson is a self-taught potter, establishing a pottery at Dunmoochin, Cottlesbridge, Victoria, in 1960. Skilled at throwing large pieces of clay, he was approached by Tom Sanders to throw this large plate for subsequent decoration by Fred Williams. Peter Laycock gleaned information from Arthur Boyd, John Perceval and Neil Douglas and started production with hit-and-miss methods. He turned to stoneware because Alma Shanahan was also establishing her own workshop attached to her house and was using the natural Dunmoochin clay. Bruce Davidson was next to arrive. He started as a student and became really involved and set up his own independent workshop. Image credit: From the collection of Nillumbik Shire Council, Victorian Collections
Green Mug, pressed decoration, Alma Shanahan, b. 1923, d. 2015. Alma Shanahan trained for a term with Peter Laycock but was otherwise self-taught, basing her practice on the teachings of Bernard Leach. On 4 April 2010, she was one of 100 artists honoured at a ceremony in Eltham for making a difference to the arts in the Diamond Valley and beyond. Her works are incised with her full name. Image credit: From the collection of Nillumbik Shire Council, Victorian Collections
Bowl, Leon Saper, b. 1928, d. 2005. Leon Saper was a member of Clifton Pugh's Dunmoochin Artists' Collective at Cottles Bridge. After his death in April 2005, a retrospective display of work collected by friends was held at the Nillumbik Council Offices. His mark is an incised 'L. Saper'.
Pottery Mug, Peter Laycock, b. 1927, d. 2009. Peter Laycock was the first president of the Craft Association of Victoria when it was formed in 1970. In the same year, Sue Ford published a photographic record of the Laycocks at work, Fire and clay: the craft of Helen and Peter Laycock. Image credit: From the collection of Nillumbik Shire Council, Victorian Collections
Porcelain on stoneware by Julie (Julia) Mair, New Zealand Potter, Volume 29, Number 1, 1987. Image credit: Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū
Tamara Slabon's parents SEK and Natalie Hulme lived at 'Kurnalpi' which was purchased in 1968 from Robert Leslie (Les) Schultz, a descendent of one of the early families of the district. Kurnalpi hosted a fundraising event on Saturday 7th March 1970 at which many of the Dunmoochin artists were present. Information credit Tamara Slabon. Image credit: Bruce G. Draper
Clifton Pugh with a magazine cover depicting his Archibald Prize winning portrait of Gough Whitlam. Image credit: Herald Sun Real Estate, August 2019
Leon Saper and Russell Yeoman near Dunmoochin, 1991. Leon Saper was a potter and member of Clifton Pugh's Artists' Collective at Cottles Bridge. Image credit: victoriancollections.net.au, Eltham District Historical Society Inc
William ‘Jock’ Frater, died 1974 and Winifred Frater, also died 1974. Photographed at Arthurs Creek Cemetery by Bruce G. Draper

With its rolling hills and beautiful natural and pastoral landscapes it is no surprise that Arthurs Creek has been home to many artists over the years.

John Loxton (1903 – 1969)

Tennis group at 'Barton Hill' c 1930. L to R rear: Horace Gamble, Merv Draper, Keith Bassett, Tom Draper, Staff Draper. Third: George Downes (from near Gibbs), Muriel Draper, Mrs Downes, Lily Draper, Joan Loxton (John Loxton's first wife). Second: Annie Loxton, Blanche Draper. Front: Jim Draper, children of John Loxton. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper
The artist John Loxton (1903 - 1969) was a frequent guest at 'Barton Hill' along with his first wife Joan and their children. Jim Draper (1863 - 1940) and Blanche Draper (nee Hurrey, 1880 - 1968) entertained them for games of tennis as can be seen in the photo above. John Loxton is considered one of Australia’s best landscape painters. He was born in Adelaide and moved to Melbourne as a young man to study at Swinburne Technical College and later, the art school of the Australian National Gallery. Loxton developed an eye for landscape and honed his talent for reproducing them in both watercolour and oil paints. He exhibited consistently in Australia from 1937 onwards and became well entrenched in the local arts scene as a member of multiple artist societies and as president of the prestigious Fellowship of Australian Artists. He travelled in Australia and New Zealand, including spending time in Arthurs Creek in Victoria. Information credit: The Aigantighe Art Gallery, South Canterbury, NZ and Bruce G. Draper. Image credit: www.artrecord.com, Summer Droving Tumut NSW by John Loxton. Copyright all rights reserved. John Loxton

Kenneth William David Jack (1924 – 1987)

Kenneth Jack's gravestone at Arthurs Creek Cemetery. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper
Kenneth William David Jack, artist: born Melbourne, Victoria 5 October 1924; MBE 1982; AM 1987; married 1950 Betty Dyer (one son, two daughters); died Melbourne 10 June 2006. Photo credit www.kennethjack.com.au
Pioneer's Farmhouse, Yan Yean, 1958. Drawing by Kenneth Jack. Copyright all rights reserved. Kenneth Jack

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