Detail photos for this Artwork
The man featured in this painting is the late Bill Chalmers. Bill was a good friend of Hugh Sawrey’s as well as a lover of art and a collector of all sorts of Chinese artefacts, including sculptures and figurines.
Back in the 1970’s Bill Chalmers was a market gardener at Sunnybank in Brisbane with a holding of about 5 to 10 acres. The gardens are all gone now, taken over by houses and development.
Bill and his wife Jean lived in a large two storey house which Sawrey’s sons recall as being a highly intriguing place to visit due to all the Chinese artefacts in the home and their art collection, which included works by Hugh Sawrey.
Bill was a typical Aussie bloke. He was a big man, a red head with a big beard and often seen wearing shorts and bare-footed. In this portrait of Bill, we get a great sense of the man from the honest way in which Hugh has painted him, belly and all, sitting under his hat panning for gold on the banks of the Palmer River in Far North Queensland.
The scene in the painting most likely records the time in the mid 1980’s when Hugh Sawrey and his son Jon Sawrey travelled together on a trip up to Cape York, accompanied by Bill. This was a time when the road to Cape Tribulation still wasn’t open.
The Palmer River and the area surrounding the river was the site of major gold rush in the late 19th Century, which began in 1873.
Sawrey was known for enjoying a bit of prospecting for fun, so along the way on their trip, Sawrey and Bill would have tried their hand at gold panning in the Palmer River. Interestingly too, over the years, Sawrey painted some beautiful scenes and portraits of gold miners on gold mining pans.
This colourful work with its beautiful textures, records so well one of Sawrey’s friendships and carefree times and adventures together as mates.