‘From the time I was very young I wanted to draw to understand what I was seeing. I used pencil to understand things.’ Robert Hannaford The Art Gallery of South Australia presents its first exhibition of the work of South Australia’s most celebrated portraitist, Robert Hannaford from 2 July 2016. Titled Robert Hannaford, this long-awaited exhibition presents fifty years of Hannaford’s figuration and portraiture, charting the influence of other artists including Hans Heysen and Ivor Hele on his work, and bringing Hannaford into conversation with works of art spanning 500 years from the Art Gallery’s collection. Born in rural South Australia, Hannaford has established a reputation as one of Australia’s most respected portraitists, revered for his ability to capture in his paintings the true nature or ‘essence’of his sitters.
The recipient of numerous important commissions and awards, Hannaford has also been selected as a finalist for the Archibald Prize over the past twenty-five years, winning the People’s Choice Award three times. Lesser known about Hannaford’s art practice is that he has spent his life recording in pencil, charcoal, and pen and ink the world around him, amassing over the course of a fifty-year career a personal archive of thousands of drawings depicting the natural and social landscapes he inhabits. Many of these delicate drawings, which have never before been publicly exhibited, reveal the complexity and depth of the artist’s ceaseless desire to accumulate knowledge.
Through the act of drawing he comes to an understanding of the places, people and things that constitute his life. When Art Gallery of South Australia Director, Nick Mitzevich visited the studio of Robert Hannaford last year, the artist opened up a hidden treasure, a vast personal archive of his drawings. ‘Hannaford’s hidden works revealed the extent to which drawing underpins his publicly seen practice. I was struck by his extraordinary ability to capture not only a subject’s likeness but the essence of their personality, often in just a few quickly drawn lines. Sometimes raw, sometimes with detailed draughtsmanship, these were works of energy and vitality. His drawings illustrated more completely his method and his skill,’Mitzevich said. That studio visit was the genesis for Robert Hannaford. The exhibition assembles many of these previously unseen portraits and figure drawings alongside the artist’s more familiar paintings. At the heart of this is a remarkable body of self-portraiture which traces the artist’s personal and creative journey from his teenage years to the present day. It also positions them in relation to works of art from the Gallery’s collection by his South Australian mentors, Ivor Hele and Hans Heysen, and by European masters such as Rembrandt, to create a detailed portrait of the artist and his mastery. ‘Robert Hannaford deepens our understanding of a life devoted to the quest for knowledge through art.
It is my hope this exhibition and accompanying publication will inspire a new generation to art appreciation and enthusiasm,’Mitzevich said. Robert Hannaford runs from 2 July to 9 October 2016 and is part of the Art Gallery of South Australia’s South Australian Living Artists Festival season. Admission is free. For further information visit www.artgallery.sa.gov.au. BIOGRAPHY Born in 1944, Robert Hannaford lives and works near Riverton, South Australia. He won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 1990 and the inaugural Fleurieu Landscape Prize in 1998. Hannaford has now been a finalist in the Archibald Prize for portraiture 23 times, winning the People’s Choice Award on three occasions. An acclaimed portrait artist, he has been commissioned to paint many well-known figures, among them Paul Keating, Tim Flannery and Lowitja O’Donoghue. He is also a highly regarded landscape painter and a sculptor.
EXHIBITION INFORMATION Robert Hannaford Saturday 2 July – Sunday 9 October Art Gallery of South Australia Open daily, 10am to 5pm Free admission Featuring 191 drawings, 44 paintings and 2 bronze sculptures alongside approximately 80 works of art from the Art Gallery of South Australia’s collection by Dora Chapman, Ivor Hele, Hans Heysen, Tom Roberts and more.