JJ Hilder / Australia QLD/NSW 1881–1916 / Island schooner, Moreton Bay 1910 / Watercolour over pencil / 54.5 x 74cm / Purchased 1967 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

J J Hilder
Island schooner, Moreton Bay 1910

Not Currently on Display

Special qualities of light distinguish JJ Hilder’s watercolours, which beautifully distil their subjects to an atmospheric, dreamlike vision. Using roughly textured paper, he allowed the colour to collect in its grain, casting shadows and creating lyrical effects. The consummate watercolourist, Hilder used the medium for the pure enjoyment of its properties. Island schooner, Moreton Bay 1910 was probably a local trading and passenger vessel that sailed the eastern seaboard.

Queensland-born JJ Hilder has been called Australia’s ‘first romantic’ painter. He subtracted from nature, eliminating all but the essence, leaving the viewer’s imagination to complete the subject.

Hilder was born in Toowoomba and moved to Brisbane as a child. He attended Brisbane Grammar School and developed an early interest in drawing and painting. In 1898, he joined the Brisbane branch of the Bank of New South Wales, also working in Goulburn and Bega before transferring to Sydney. There he became a frequent visitor to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and began studying watercolour in Julian Ashton’s late-afternoon classes. But Hilder was plagued by ill health for much of his life — tuberculosis forced his retirement from the bank in 1909, and painting became his only source of income. He was a severe critic of his own paintings, rarely completing more than one or two per week, some of which he would destroy.