Pro Hart. Surely everyone has heard of this iconic artist in Australia. If not, then here’s a brief snapshot of the man who grew to become synonymous with the outback. Pro was a Broken Hill boy. He grew up at his parent’s property, Larloona Station, which was located about one hundred and thirty kilometres east of Broken Hill. Educated via correspondence lessons, Pro’s homework was often illustrated with drawings, showing an interest in art from an early age. Then, when Pro turned thirteen his family moved to Broken Hill. It was 1941 and he was quickly enrolled at one of the local colleges where his interest in art, which was pretty much self-taught, continued. But life also beckoned and he spent twenty years working underground in the mines, while becoming a rather obsessive body-builder.
It was in the mines that’s it is said that he got his nickname, Pro. Apparently he knew everything and wasn’t afraid to show his knowledge, and he was also a keen inventor, and so Professor became Pro for short. He always maintained that he learnt much about art from working in the mines, and once commented; ‘I learnt a lot working underground. Underground you get light out of dark’. Pro’s first solo exhibition was held in Adelaide in 1962 and it didn’t take long before his work was in demand and he had a huge following. His preferred subject matter was showing ordinary Australian’s at work and it was this that made him so popular. Of course the art critics disliked him intensely. Pro painted too much. Was far too commercial and had a very successful career. The reason being that the average Australian could relate to his work and many of them could afford it. Which was just how Pro wanted things to be.
Pro went on to experiment with everything from bronze and steel sculptures to ceramics and he was not adverse to taking bits of metal out to the bush and blowing the pieces up with dynamite to use for his art. He is perhaps best known for splattering paint across various surfaces, even from the mouth of a canon. And of course, there’s that iconic Stainmaster carpet television advertisement, ‘Oh, Mr Hart’.
Pro is considered the father of the outback painting movement, and he was also a member of the Brushmen of the Bush, but for my money I reckon he was the brushman.
Pro Hart 1928 – 2006.