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Australian art

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Turning the plough

printed 1920


Hans Heysen

Germany, Australia, France

08 Oct 1877 - 02 Jul 1968


Hans Heysen was born in Hamburg and came to Australia with his parents in 1883. He studied in Adelaide under James Ashton, 1895 and Harry Gill, 1898 and under Jean Paul Laurens, Benjamin Constant and Leon Bonnat in Paris from 1899-1901. In 1908 Heysen settled at Hahndorf in South Australia and following his first exhibition in Melbourne that year established himself as a major painter of landscape, winning the Gallery's Wynne Prize for landscape nine times.

There are very few etchings by Heysen, of which this is one of the best known. He first made etchings while studying in Europe 1899-1904, or shortly after he returned, and again 1910-11. The drawing for this etching on a sheet of studies of a man ploughing with a two horse team, in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia. The study and etching are about the same size. A larger, fully developed charcoal drawing of the same subject was made after the etching and the Wynne Prize winning watercolour 'The toilers' in 1920. The two draught horses in these works are Polly and Jack, who were regularly brought in to plough and cultivate the soil at Heysen's property 'The Cedars' at Hahndorf. Another watercolour of them ploughing is in the Gallery's collection. Heysen was able to proof his etchings on his lithographic press, but the edition was printed by Lionel Lindsay, who encouraged Heysen to etch. 'Turning the plough' was included in the first exhibition of the Painter-Etchers Society in 1921, from which it was purchased by the Gallery.

Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, 'Australian prints from the Gallery's collection', AGNSW, 1998


Other Title

The plough


printed 1920

Media category


Materials used

etching, black ink with plate tone on ivory wove paper


from edition of 50-55


7.4 x 7.8 cm platemark; 12.3 x 12.9 cm sheet

Signature & date

Signed l.l., pencil "Hans Heysen.". Not dated.


Purchased 1921


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Hans Heysen

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 5 publications


Roger Arthur Butler, Printed images by Australian artists 1885-1955, Canberra, 2007, 28 (colour illus.). Collection of Art Gallery of South Australia

Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, Australian prints from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 1998, 42 (colour illus.). 27

Hendrik Kolenberg, Animals on paper - from the Australian collection of prints, drawings and watercolours, Sydney, 1992. 21

Lionel Lindsay, 150 years of Australian art, Sydney, 1938. 636 [Gallery No. 5], titled 'The plough'

Anne Ryan, Australian etchings and engravings 1880s–1930s from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 2007, 43 (colour illus.). 60