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Type: Thesis
Title: Behind the Scenes: Hans Heysen’s Art World Networks
Author: Body, Ralph Mark
Issue Date: 2019
School/Discipline: School of Humanities : Art History
Abstract: The artist Hans Heysen is closely associated with the South Australian regional environment, which featured as the subject matter of his most celebrated works. At the same time, however, he also rapidly established a national reputation, achieving critical and commercial success in the interstate art worlds of Melbourne and Sydney. This dissertation investigates the significant role of Heysen’s art world networks in establishing, shaping and maintaining his career and reputation. Most of the existing scholarship on Heysen has either been biographical or concerned with analysing the style and subject matter of his paintings. While previous authors have alluded to the importance of his networks, these have not been their central focus of study. Similarly, Heysen’s ties to the urban Australian art worlds where his works were exhibited, reviewed and sold have been little researched. Heysen’s networks encompassed fellow artists, art critics, publishers, dealers, collectors and museum trustees and directors. Due to his geographical isolation written correspondence played an essential role in his long-distance career management, with the letters he exchanged providing valuable insights into the importance of his networks. Consequently, this dissertation has involved intensive archival research, cross-referencing the archives of Heysen and his correspondents, together with studying historic exhibition catalogues, art magazines and published reviews. The interpretation of this material has been informed by two complementary conceptual frameworks. The first is Howard Becker’s conceptualisation of art (and art world success) as the product of collaborative activity. This has been utilised when analysing the specific operations of Heysen’s networks. The second is Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of a ‘Field of Cultural Production,’ a metaphorical, changing space in which cultural agents compete for symbolic capital. These ideas have been employed to examine the structure of the Australian art world and the construction of reputation. This research demonstrates the essential role of Heysen’s art world networks in representing and advancing his interests. The support of key associates enabled Heysen to withstand the threats to his career presented by anti-German sentiments during the First World War, the impact of the Depression on the art market and the ascendency of modernism. While he generally benefited from his networks, the entrenched conservatism or overt commercial concerns of some of Heysen’s associates proved detrimental to his reputation. This dissertation shows that while Heysen’s traditionalist style and subject matter did not change dramatically over the course of his lengthy career, there were considerable shifts in the way in which he displayed, promoted and sold his works which reflected broader changes in the Australian art world. Similarly, perceptions of Heysen progressed from regarding him as an innovator in the Edwardian period, to an establishment figure during the interwar decades and finally as the last representative of a past generation. Heysen is shown to have been a strategically-minded professional who closely monitored both his own critical fortunes and those of other Australian artists.
Advisor: Speck, Catherine
North, Ian
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2019
Keywords: Hans Heysen
Australian art history - 20th century
art market - Australia
artistic reputation - Australia
art - social aspects
art patronage - Australia
artists - Australia - correspondence
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at: NOTE: Some images have been removed due to copyright.
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