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Nora Heysen

1911 – 2003

Nora Heysen, fourth child of South Australian landscape painter Sir Hans Heysen, grew up in Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. From 1926 to 1930 she studied at the School of Fine Arts in Adelaide under F Millward Grey. In 1930 her work was acquired by the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Art Gallery of South Australia. Her first solo exhibition was held in Sydney three years later. In 1934 she travelled to London with her family, and remained in Europe until 1937 studying and painting. When she returned to Australia she returned briefly to Adelaide and before moving to Sydney, where she lived for the rest of her life. In 1938 she became the first woman to win the Archibald Prize, and in late 1943 she became the first woman to be appointed as an Australian war artist. Commissioned to depict the women’s war effort in the air force, the navy and the army, she completed more than 170 works of art before being discharged from service in New Guinea in 1946. While in New Guinea she met a doctor, Robert Black, whom she later married. Following her discharge from war service she went to London, returning to Sydney in 1948. She continued to paint, exhibit and travel with her husband. Her works are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Australian War Memorial, the National Library of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery and several state galleries.

Updated 2018