Explorers and surveyors made the first images of the Flinders Ranges as part of their record keeping: Westall, Frome, Henderson , S.T. Gill, Goyder and Babbage.

The best known of all the artists who have painted the Flinders is Sir Hans Heysen, who inspired many others like Max Ragless to follow him.

  • The best source of information on artists’ reactions to the Flinders is Arid Arcadia, edited by Jane Hylton and Penelope Curtin for the Art Gallery of South Australia.

William Westall

  • Westall was a landscape artist aboard Matthew Flinders’ ship, Investigator.
    • English and French navy ships carried artists to sketch coastal profiles to help later navigators and aid map making.
  • Westall was the first to sketch the Flinders Ranges.
    • He made two quick sketches of Mt Brown and a water colour painting of the mountains he could see from the ship.

Colonel E.C. Frome

Colonel E.C. Frome led an expedition up the east side of the Flinders in 1843, sketching as he went. The Art Gallery of South Australia has watercolours he painted of Black Rock Hills near Orroroo, camp sites, Mt Serle and a salt lake he called Lake Torrens, but which we know as Lake Frome.
Frome’s entry in the Australian National Dictionary of Biography says:

He was the first to visit the lake later named after him, and his report accurately described the poor nature of the surrounding country. He evidently liked exploring…

He had useful talent as an artist, but the chief value of his pictures is their historical content.

Resources for Frome

James Henderson

  • Second-in-command on Frome’s trip
  • Sketched day to day activities in the camp as well as landscape views of Mt Chambers.

Resources for Henderson

  • State Library of South Australia pictorial collection has many online images of Henderson’s work, including sketches of Hughes’ station at Bundaleer and the country around Mt McKinlay.

W.G. Goyder and B.H. Babbage

  • Surveyors Goyder and Babbage made simple sketches as part of their work in the Flinders in the 1850s.

S.T. Gill

  • Gill’s watercolours of Horrocks’ fatal expedition in 1846 tell the story of the journey as well as record the country it explored.
  • When his paintings of the expedition went on display in Adelaide in 1847, they gave the public their first glimpse of the northern ranges.
  • His work captured life in the explorer’s camps in the ranges and the desert.
  • He caught both the early excitement of the expedition and the tragedy of Horrocks’ shooting.
  • Gill left South Australia for Victoria in the 1850s.

From then until 1898 no artists created landscapes of the Flinders.

Resources for Gill

  • National Library of Australia website has four images of Gill’s paintings
  • State Library of South Australia has copies of many of Gill’s works online.
  • The Art Gallery of SA has three of ST Gill’s Flinders works online: Spencer Gulf from Camp S of Mt Brown, Flinders Range north from Mount Brown, and Stoney Creek, Mount Remarkable Survey.

John White

  • White produced the earliest known oil painting of the Flinders in 1898: Land of the Salt Bush.
  • It was bought by the Art Gallery of South Australia in the same year, with funds from the Elder bequest.

Sir Hans Heysen

Heysen’s close connection to the Flinders Ranges is recognised in the names of the Heysen Range, Heysen Hill and the Heysen Trail.

Heysen’s vision of the Flinders Ranges

  • Heysen (1877-1968) was the first great artist to paint the Flinders, and his paintings here are some of his greatest .
  • His vision ‘continues to influence artists and tourists alike in their representation and visualisation of this unique region of south Australia’ (Hylton and Curtin 2002:62).
  • Heysen described the country as ‘the bones of nature laid bare’ and found each trip ‘an exhilarating experience in form and colour’.
  • His paintings brought the forms and colours of the inland to a wide national audience for the first time.
  • When Heysen first began to paint these dry, rugged landscapes, they startled many people who saw them – they were more used to green pastoral landscapes.
  • Heysen encouraged other artists to visit the Flinders, including photographer Harold Cazneaux and painters Horace Trenerry and Geoffrey Smart.
  • By the 1950s, the dry inland was inspiring many artists.

Heysen’s journeys

  • Heysen made his first journey by train and mail truck to Wilpena in 1926.
  • The next year, he arranged through friends to stay in a cottage in the Aroona Valley, with Eddie Pumpa and his wife.
  • ‘Heysen’s first sunrise at Aroona was one of the most exciting experiences of his long life’ (Mincham 1980:161). Here he began to explore the landscapes and shifting lights of the Flinders, producing a series of masterpieces over many years.
  • Pumpa had a 1922 model Ford, in which he drove Heysen to and from special scenic places, and to and from the railway station at Hawker.
    • The Pumpas later moved to Hawker, where Heysen stayed with them again in 1929.
  • Heysen’s house and studio at The Cedars are on the Heysen Trail near Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. You can see the car and primitive caravan he used for his Flinders trips in the garage there.

Heysen works

Heysen left his collection of drawings to the Art Gallery of SA.  It holds several of his paintings of the Flinders Ranges including The Three Sisters of Aroona (the ABC Range), Patawarta: Land of the Oratunga and The Guardian of Brachina Gorge.

Resources for Heysen

  • Australian Dictionary of Biography online
  • Hylton, J and Curtin, P. (eds) 2002. Arid Arcadia: Art of the Flinders Ranges. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.
  • Mincham, Hans 1980. Hawker … Hub of the Flinders. Hawker Centenary Committee. Adelaide.
  • Mincham, Hans 1983. The Story of the Flinders Ranges. (3rd ed). Adelaide, Rigby.
  • Thiele, Colin 1968, rev 1974. Heysen of Hahndorf Adelaide, Rigby.

Max Ragless

A member of the Willochra Ragless family, Max Ragless painted many Flinders landscapes in the 1930 and 40s. Two of his best know oils are of Mount Remarkable and Melrose.

Many more artists have painted and photographed the Flinders Ranges over the last 50 years.

Resources on Flinders Ranges art and photography

  • The best source of information on art and the Flinders is Hylton, J and Curtin, P. (eds) 2002. Arid Arcadia: Art of the Flinders Ranges. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.
  • Hans Mincham has an excellent introduction to photographer Eduard Domin’s The Flinders Ranges, A Portrait.