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Australian art

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Deviation work

(circa 1913)


J J Hilder


23 Jul 1881 - Apr 1916


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.


Other Title

The deviation work


(circa 1913)

Media category


Materials used

pencil, watercolour


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

Accession number


Artist information

J J Hilder

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Brett Hilder and Lloyd Rees, The heritage of J. J. Hilder, Sydney, 1966, pg. 22-23 (colour illus.).. plate V 'The deviation work'; dated [incorrectly] 1911.

Queensland Art Gallery and Brett Hilder, Jesse Jewhurst Hilder: anniversary exhibition, Brisbane, 1966. cat. no. 55

Hugh Speirs, Manning Clark and John Olsen, Landscape art and the Blue Mountains, Australia, 1981, pg. 8 (illus.). Plate no. 15; titled and dated [incorrectly] "The deviation work 1911 [Glenbrook Tunnel]".