Nora Heysen was born 1911 at Ambleside near Hahndorf in South Australia.
She is known as a traditional painter of flowers, still-life and portraits. Nora used oil, some watercolours and pastels. She was the daughter of the well known artist Sir Hans Heysen (1877-1968).
While still a teenager, Nora became known for her Impressionistic still life studies and portraits and her work was acquired for three state galleries.
Nora’s first art studies were within her family. She also went on to study at the Adelaide School of Fine Arts (1926-1932); Central School of Arts & Crafts, in London (1934-1936); and also undertook sculpture studies with Byam Shaw School of Art in London (1935-1937).
Nora Heysen was the first woman to win the Archibald prize in 1938 at the age of 27. Other awards include: Melrose Prize South Australia; L. J. Harvey Memorial Drawing Prize (twice), Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1973; and emeritus award, Visual Arts/Crafts Board of the Australia Council, 1991. In 1998 she was a recipient of the Order of Australia for her services to art.
During WWII, Nora was appointed an official war artist with the three services and worked in Papua New Guinea from 1944 to 1946.
Nora exhibited widely in South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. In more recent years, Nora’s work became very highly regarded with the revival of interest in women artists of the 19th to mid 20th Century.
Despite her considerable talent, Nora avoided publicity and was known as a very private person. She continued to draw and paint portraits and vibrant pastel flowers into her 90’s.
Nora Heysen’s work is represented in several collections: Art Gallery of New South Wales; Art Gallery of South Australia; Queensland Art Gallery; Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, Australian War Memorial; regional galleries in Armidale, Ballarat, Hamilton & Newcastle; Australian National Gallery; National War Museum; and the New England Art Museum (formerly the Howard Hinton Collection of the Armidale Teachers’ College).
Nora died at the age of 93 in 2003.