We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

Henry Van den Wildenberg The storyteller - Mem Fox

oil on canvas

180 x 120cm

Mem Fox is one of Australia’s best-known writers of books for young children. She is the author of Possum magic, the iconic picture book which celebrates its 21st birthday this year and has sold over two million copies, and has also written five non-fiction books for adults. Fox has lived in Adelaide since 1970. For 24 years, until 1996, she taught literacy education at Flinders University and is now internationally renowned as a literacy adviser.
Henny van den Wildenberg met Fox when they were teaching together, and has known her for many years. ‘She is incredibly good with children. She is a wonderful storyteller and I’ve always been fascinated by the way she approaches children,’ he says.

Van den Wildenberg went to Fox’s house several times for sittings. It was a very happy experience. ‘She’s an actress so no problems whatsoever,’ he says. ‘She’s like a chameleon, she’s a scream.’ As for those flying hands: ‘Oh yes! She has body language.’ He tried quite a few different colours for the portrait but decided that in order to emphasise the expression in the body and face he would leave the rest subdued.

Born in Holland in 1929, Henny van den Wildenberg began painting at an early age, winning his first art prize when he was 10. He studied art and design and began his creative career as a designer at Philips-Eindhoven. In 1958 he was seconded to Le Corbusier during the building of Poeme Electronique. He migrated to Australia in 1961 to become a lecturer at the National Art School in Sydney. In 1965 he returned to Holland to lecture at various art and design schools but came back to Australia in 1971 to lecture in art at Sturt College of Advanced Education in Adelaide. Since 1985 he has devoted himself to full-time painting in Australia and Europe and lives in South Australia.