For almost three decades the landscape of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia provided inspiration for Hans Heysen. Known for his imagery of Australian gum trees, the artist was forty-nine when he first visited the Flinders Ranges. The scenery of this country had a deep impact on Heysen, and between November 1926 and April 1949 he made many painting trips to the region.
In the Flinders–Far North is an example of Heysen combining the two great motifs of his oeuvre in one composition: the Australian gum tree and the view of the Flinders Ranges. The mightiness of the gum dominates this work, set deep in the arid amber and lilac landscape of the Ranges. The work was commissioned by the Commonwealth Government to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Federation and was displayed in the Australian Embassy in Paris for many years.1
In discussing the impact of the Flinders Ranges on his work and the contrast it provided with the landscape of his hometown of Ambleside (also known as Hahndorf), South Australia, Heysen said:
… I go to the north, to the Flinders, where I find an entirely new landscape, quite divorced from anything that surrounds me here at Ambleside, and it gives me the fresh impulse to create the bare bones of our landscape in South Australia. It is an old country, very old, and it is that very age you feel in your surroundings, that spaciousness and those rugged peculiar shapes in the hills, that fascinate one, and the dry quality of the colour and the infinity of the vast distances have a fascination which this country surrounded by foliage and trees doesn’t give you. You feel freer.2
1 Colin Thiele, Heysen of Hahndorf, Australia: Rigby Limited, 1968, pp. 264–65. See also Alisa Bunbury, Arid Arcadia: art of the Flinders Ranges, Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, 2002.
2 Hans Heysen, interview by Hazel de Berg, 1960, Canberra: National Library of Australia [deB 27].