For well over a century, artists have flocked to Broken Hill and the Outback. Standing at the Mundi Mundi lookout at the end of the Barrier Ranges, watching the last few hills roll out into a seemingly endless expanse of flat, red earth… it’s easy to see why.
The incredible landscape of this area has consistently drawn creatives from all disciplines. Painters, sculptors, writers, musicians, photographers and filmmakers have all produced works inspired by the rugged beauty of the outback, attempting to capture the essence of this truly unique place. The city continues to be a haven for artists today, with the number of art galleries doubling the number of pubs in the area.
As the city began to form, so too did the art scene. The Broken Hill City Art Gallery was founded in 1904, the oldest regional gallery in NSW. A wander through the Gallery – housed at the historical Sully’s Emporium building – reveals an incredible collection of colonial, modern and contemporary Australian artworks, including the internationally acclaimed “Brushmen of the Bush”.
In 1973, five outback artists came together for a group exhibition, raising money for charity. The Brushmen of the Bush consisted of Pro Hart, Eric Minchin, Jack Absalom, John Pickup and Hugh Schulz. Each with a unique style, the Brushmen captured the outback in a way that resonated at home and abroad, with the group going on to exhibit their works in London, Rome, Paris, New York and Los Angeles.
Raising over $1.6m for various charities – including the Royal Flying Doctor Service – the Brushmen of the Bush are bona fide local heroes here in Broken Hill. Make sure you visit Pro Hart Gallery and Absalom’s Gallery while you’re here to get a better understanding of these trailblazers’ work.
The influence of the Brushmen has sparked a golden age of artistic expression in Broken Hill, discoverable around just about every corner. Galleries and studios dot the streets of this city, each showcasing their own vision of life in the outback. Stepping into any one of them you’ll find characters more colourful than the paintings themselves, with a yarn to spin or a joke to tell. Artistic expression is truly alive in this city. Even the shortest of stays will reveal it to you.