Pro Hart

Popular Australian artist


Kevin Charles ("Pro") Hart, artist: born Broken Hill, New South Wales 30 May 1928; MBE 1976; married 1960 Raylee Tonkin (three sons, two daughters); died Broken Hill 28 March 2006.

Pro Hart has a good claim to be the best-known and most popular artist in Australia. His works, closely observed depictions of the scrubby bush landscape and the small-town life of rural New South Wales, painted in a richly coloured if slightly naïve style, have a wide and ready appeal. It was an appeal enhanced by Hart's generous, outgoing character and by the fact that he sold most of his work from his own gallery - the Pro Hart Family Gallery - in his native Broken Hill, New South Wales. His fame was only enhanced by his starring, between 1988 and 2003, in a series of television advertisements for a brand of easy-to-clean carpet.

Kevin Charles Hart was born in the mining town of Broken Hill in 1928. His first years were spent on the family sheep property nearby. He showed an early interest in drawing, painting and in making things, but - like most of his contemporaries - began his working life in the mines. Nevertheless he persevered with his art. Although largely self-taught, he made drawings of his work experiences and began to paint them. (His wife - whom he married in 1960 - touted them around stores in the town.)

He received some local encouragement, along with the nickname "Professor", soon shortened to "Pro". Having begun painting full-time in 1958, Pro Hart had his first one-man exhibition in 1962 at the innovative Kim Bonython gallery in Adelaide. It was an immediate success.

Despite a rapidly growing reputation across Australia, Hart preferred to spend his time and his energy at Broken Hill. He opened his own gallery there. The town and the surrounding bush country remained the abiding theme of his art. And it was his proud boast that he had won the Broken Hill Art Prize on five occasions. He drew other artists of a similar outlook to the area, and helped to foster something of an Australian Outback Painting Movement.

During the 1960s and 1970s he exhibited internationally - in London (where the Duke of Edinburgh acquired two of his works), France, Egypt and America. One of his pictures is in the White House collection, another was bought by Arnold Schwarzenegger. His exhibition in Tel Aviv in 1977 was the first show by an Australian artist in Israel.

His artistic energy was prodigious. He made large sculptures out of welded steel and (on the occasion of one of his Adelaide gallery openings) out of ice. He also illustrated numerous books, including a collection of poems by the popular Bush poet Henry Lawson, a venture that gave full range to both his love of the Australian landscape and his sense of humour. Amongst the few images that he made not of the Australian scene was a series of large-scale paintings depicting the horrors of the Gallilpoli campaign.

He had no time for what he called the "art mafia" - the metropolitan critics and public gallery curators - and they had little time for him. Nevertheless his fame and success secured him a place in the history of Australian art, and examples of his work have now been acquired by the Australian state and national galleries.

Hart was appointed MBE in 1976. It was only one of several accolades. He received an Australian Citizen of the Year award in 1983 and a Centenary Medal in 2003. Broken Hill town council honoured him by declaring 2004 the "Year of Pro Hart". His studio-gallery by then had become a major tourist attraction, the home not only of an impressive collection of Australian and European art but also of a huge Rodgers Electric Pipe Organ.

Hart counted organ playing amongst his favourite pastimes, along with body-building, vintage cars and pistol shooting. He was a man of strong and sometimes colourful views. He had a great appetite for right-wing conspiracy theories. But this went hand in hand with his generous charity work and his strong Christian beliefs. He was a member of the Gideons, and often surprised acquaintances by presenting them with hand-decorated copies of the New Testament.

Such was Hart's commercial success that, towards the end of his life, he became concerned about the growing market for forgeries of his work. To counter this danger he developed a method of tagging each of his pictures with a trace of his own DNA - taken with a swab from the inside of his cheek.

Rebecca Hossack

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
people70-year-old was most famous for 'You are So Beautiful'
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballLatest score and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
The US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'