Australian artist Pro Hart dies

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Pro Hart's Gallery in Broken Hill, NSW

Pro Hart, the self-taught, internationally-acclaimed Australian artist, died at home in Broken Hill on March 28 after family members decided to cease his medication. The 77-year-old had been ill with motor neurone disease. Family members described his passing as peaceful. Hart is a household name in Australia.

Hart's son, John Hart, says a State funeral is being organised for his father. He says his father lost the ability to paint about six months ago. Pro Hart's son David today said the funeral for the "brushman of the bush" will be held in the far-western New South Wales mining city of Broken Hill next Tuesday. "It will be held next Tuesday", he said, "probably in the town's civic centre."

Born Kevin Charles Hart in Broken Hill on May 30, 1928, his mining mates nicknamed him 'Professor' due to his passion for invention. He started painting "cheeky" pictures on the wooden beams of the mines he worked in. Hart went to few art classes and started painting full-time in 1958.

Since then, he has exhibited all over the world, including London, New York, Paris and Tokyo. He also illustrated several books. Hart's preoccupation with art began as a teenager on his family's sheep station near Menindee.

His work hangs in collections all over the world. Agent Amanda Phillips says Hart was one of Australia's most renowned artists yet his paintings are not in the National Gallery of Australia. "He's a great Australian, I mean he's been given an MBE for his services to art, he's been honoured all around the world, his work hangs in major collections around the world, why isn't he displayed here in Australia? A spokeswoman for the National Gallery confirmed they had a "very limited collection" of Pro Hart's works although no paintings.

Cannon Technique

Hart is renowned for his unique 'cannon' technique, which he developed in 1970. 'Cannon' painting works by filling balls with paint and firing them at the canvas using a hand-held cannon.

"If you don't fit in their groove, they don't want to know you," Hart once said of the Australian art community. Hart gained his widest recognition in Australia when he featured in a television carpet advertisement, painting a carpet with spaghetti, milk, wine and other foods. "Oh Mr Hart, what a mess!" was the catchcry.

The Federal Member for Parkes, John Cobb, said Hart had been an inspirational figure in Broken Hill and helped to establish the town as one of the Australia's greatest artistic centres.

Prime Minister John Howard described Hart as a great artist whose portraits of the outback were instantly recognisable. "Not only will he be remembered as one of our finest painters but also for the mark he made in sculpture and through his book illustrations," Howard said in a statement. "He made a wonderful contribution to art and culture in Australia, enhancing its profile on the world stage."

He said Hart's artistic legacy was assured. "I think they'll remember the colour, they'll remember the unconventional methods and they'll remember the identification with a city which is part of the history of this country; a very special part."

Fellow artist Ken Done said Hart's legacy was "in his paintings". He said the painter was best known for his portraits of the outback. "But I think his strongest pictures were the ones he did about his time underground – those tougher times, tougher men – and he brought a real sensitivity to that experience," Done said.

Hart received the Member of the Order of the British Empire award in 1976 for his services to art in Australia. He is survived by his wife Raylee, three sons and two daughters.