Pro Hart (1928-2006)

Nicknamed ‘Pro’ as a symbol of his artistic talent, Kevin Charles Hart has become a household name in Australia. Better known as Pro Hart, he is regarded as the father of the renowned outback painting movement, the prolific painter of primitive-regional pictures took a unique approach to his art to effectively capture the true essence of the Australian outback establishing a name for himself as one of the most popular contemporary artists of our time.

Born in Broken Hill, Australia in 1928, Pro Hart grew up on the family sheep station ‘Larloona’ just outside of Broken Hill. Having been educated by correspondence with his mother as a tutor he demonstrated a passion for painting and sketching from an early age, opting to write with his brush rather than a pen.

After studying at the Broken Hill Technical School, Hart moved to Broken Hill in his early twenties to begin working as a miner. It was during this time that he began to take his art more seriously, using painting as a creative outlet from the underground mining lifestyle. Mining during the day and painting by night, Hart started to produce the works of a practically self-taught artist.

Working primarily with oils and acrylics Hart used any tool and adopted any method to create his works, drawing upon techniques of layering, chiaroscuro, glazing, scumbling, scratching, Alla prima and the famous palette-knife technique. With his art reflecting influences from the primitive, naïve and impressionist schools Pro Hart always remained closely attached to his homeland with his art portraying scenes of the rural town life of Broken Hill and surrounding outback landscapes.

It was not until 1962 when he was discovered by the director of the Bonython Gallery in Adelaide that Hart’s success as an artist began to prosper. With his first exhibition a sellout, the artist went on to exhibit his works all over the world. He was the first Australian man to show his art in Israel and after an exhibition in England in the late 70s Prince Phillip bought one of Hart’s paintings and another was added to the White House Collection.

Contributing greatly to many significant artistic projects such as the promotion of local art, Hart joined forces with other local artists, Jack Absalom and Hugh Schultz in the early 70s to hold the culturally significant ‘Brushmen of the bush’ exhibition. He also created illustrations for a collection of poems by Henry Lawson which have become well-known for displaying a true example of character observation combined with a humourous wit.

As a man who achieved immense success and received notable recognition, Pro Hart was awarded an MBE for his services to art in Australia in 1976, Australian Citizen of the Year in 1983 and in 1982 he received an Honorary Life Membership of Society International Artistique for outstanding artistic achievement, an award which is granted to only one artist per continent.

Pro Hart remained in Broken Hill until his death in 2006. There he had established his own three-storey gallery, housing one of the largest collections in the Southern Hemisphere. Featuring both Australian and European artists his gallery includes a room dedicated to Sir William Dobell, housing many of the prominent artist’s oil paintings, sketches and assorted Dobell Memorabilia.

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