J J Hilder was the most admired of all early 20th century Australian watercolourists who died very young of tuberculosis in 1916. 'Deviation work' is one of the biggest, most restrained and reductive of his watercolours, a poetic distillation of the qualities that set Hilder apart from his contemporaries and his many followers – painted in delicate, fluid and shimmering washes of watercolour, spare and original in composition. The subject is the Lithgow entrance (portal) to tunnel number 9, one of the deviations of the Zig-Zag railway line in the Blue Mountains during construction in 1913. There is another watercolour in a private collection by Hilder of the same railway tunnel from ground level.
The elevated view of the tunnel in strong sunlight in 'Deviation work' accentuates its abstract and poetic qualities, rather like Arthur Streeton's Fire's on (painting & watercolour), where incident is secondary to the intense midday summer light and its daring design.
The deviation work
65.0 x 52.0 cm sight
Signature & date
Signed l.r. corner, ?black watercolour "J.J. Hilder". Not dated.
Bequest of Julius Wilfred (Wilf) Hilder 2011
Not on display
Shown in 1 exhibition
Jesse Jewhurst Hilder anniversary exhibition (1966-1967):
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 21 Apr 1966–15 May 1966
- City Hall, Toowoomba, Toowoomba 23 May 1966–29 May 1966
- Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle 09 Jun 1966–03 Jul 1966
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart 14 Jul 1966–07 Aug 1966
- Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Launceston 18 Aug 1966–11 Sep 1966
- National Gallery of Victoria [Swanston Street], Melbourne 22 Sep 1966–23 Oct 1966
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 09 Nov 1966–04 Dec 1966
- Canberra Theatre Centre, Canberra 15 Dec 1966–08 Jan 1967
- National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 19 Jan 1967–12 Feb 1967
Referenced in 3 publications
The heritage of J. J. Hilder, Sydney, 1966, pg. 22-23 (colour illus.).. plate V 'The deviation work'; dated [incorrectly] 1911.
Jesse Jewhurst Hilder: anniversary exhibition, Brisbane, 1966. cat. no. 55
Landscape art and the Blue Mountains, Australia, 1981, pg. 8 (illus.). Plate no. 15; titled and dated [incorrectly] "The deviation work 1911 [Glenbrook Tunnel]".