On a recent Sunday in June, members of the Friends of the Hawkesbury Art Community and Regional Gallery celebrated 25 years of hard work and achievement. The Friends began when a group of local artists and supporters decided to establish an art collection that could one day be housed in a public art gallery. Two of the long standing members, Sheila Sharp and Brian Jones, left, are seen at the celebration in the Deerubbin Centre, Windsor, which now includes the Hawkesbury Regional Gallery and Library.
From the earliest days of the colony, the Hawkesbury region has held a strong attraction for artists. As a fundraising initiative for the future collection and to draw attention to the ways in which artists had captured the beauties of the region, Brian and his fellow artist Greg Hansell developed an artists trail. For more than a decade they conducted escorted tours to sites from which artists had created their works.The earliest featured were hand coloured engravings of towns on the Hawkesbury River by Joseph Lycett, published in London in the 1820s.
In 2001, assisted by Centenary of Federation funding and Hawkesbury City Council, the Friends officially launched the Hawkesbury Artists Trail with a beautifully illustrated brochure. The mayor, the late Dr Rex Stubbs, was their president and a great supporter of the proposed gallery. Paintings from the late 19th century included works by the Heidelberg “en plein air” artists Charles Conder and Arthur Streeton. Possibly the most famous of all Streeton’s pictures, seen on the front cover, left, The Purple Noon’s Transparent Might was painted from a site overlooking the Hawkesbury River. At the time, it was recognised as a quintessentially Australian landscape and a symbol of the ambition of the young nation’s desire for independence from the mother country. Among other works in the brochure was one by Roderick Shaw, a founding member of the Windsor Group of artists who visited and painted in the area between 1935 and 1945.
Also in 2001, Sheila and Brian, accompanied by Margaret Ginnings, photographed and annotated the Friends’ growing collection of paintings, works on paper, assemblage and sculpture, creating a valuable archive for the future gallery. In June 2005 a large group of Friends and supporters celebrated the opening of the new gallery and library complex at the inaugural exhibition Agri/culture.
Leading painter, printmaker and three times winner of the Sulman Prize, Salvatore Zofrea maintains studios at Seaforth and Kurrajong. At Kurrajong, he says he developed a love of the Australian bushland. In April 2013, during his exhibition Days of Summer at the Hawkesbury Regional Gallery Salvatore presented his painting Psalm 61: For My Father to the Hawkesbury Art Collection. Here, left, he is talking about his painting to the Friends, who held a lunch in his honour. Psalm 61: For My Father is now on permanent display in the atrium of Windsor Library, in the Deerubbin Centre.