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'Lost' Heysen watercolour tipped to set auction record


A Flinders Ranges painting by Sir Hans Heysen has returned home after being found in Germany, with Adelaide art dealer Jim Elder predicting it will break the South Australian record for a watercolour when it goes to auction next month.

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The Camp at Wonoka Creek, painted in 1932, depicts a shepherd and his flock of grazing sheep under ancient gum trees, with the Flinders Ranges in the background.

“It is Heysen’s masterpiece,” Elder said.

“His masterpiece returns home.”

He expects it to sell for between $60,000 and $80,000:  “It will break the South Australian record for a watercolour, if not the Australia record.”

Elder was contacted by art experts in Dusseldorf, Germany, when the painting came on the market.

According to the artist’s ledger, he sold it to wealthy Adelaide-born wool broker and art collector Sir James McGregor in 1958. Although it is not known for sure what happened to the painting after it was bought by McGregor, it is thought it may have ended up in a Dusseldorf art collection after he gave it to an international wool industry friend.

“He would have paid about 100 pounds for the picture, so in his terms it would not have been a very expensive gift,” Elder said.

Heysen expert Allan Campbell, curator at The Cedars in Hahndorf, described The Camp at Wonoka Creek as “one of the most beautiful watercolours I have ever seen”.

The area of Wonoka Creek depicted in the painting is along the Flinders Ranges route of what is now the Heysen Trail.

The Camp at Wonoka Creek, by Hans Heysen.

The Camp at Wonoka Creek, by Hans Heysen.

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