Gallery display a chance to view Hart

By PETER CATON

AN increased number of art lovers are expected to stream through the Tweed River Art Gallery at Murwillumbah in the next three weeks following the death of popular Australian artist Pro Hart.

The gallery is displaying 50 paintings and sculptures by the prolific former coalminer until April 16.

Mr Hart, 77, died early yesterday at his Broken Hill home after battling motor neurone disease.

Nicknamed "Professor" or "Pro" because of his passion for inventing things, the iconic Australian artist had been diagnosed late last year with the debilitating disease that causes muscle wastage, but his condition began to fail considerably last week.

His family decided to cease his medication on Friday and the legendary artist died at 2.45am yesterday.

Son, Kym Hart, said his father had not been able to lift a brush since Christmas.

Yesterday Tweed art gallery director Gary Corbett, who came to know Mr Hart well during a 12-year stint as director of the Broken Hill Gallery, said he was saddened by the artist's death but expected an increase in visitors to the current exhibition.

"The show has already been extremely popular. There will probably be an increased number of people who want to see it before it goes to its next venue," he said.

Mr Corbett said the exhibition covered Mr Hart's paintings and sculptures from 1962 until 1999, drawn from his private collection.

They range from his popular outback scenes to works with religious themes.

Mr Corbett said Mr Hart "understood his markets very well and had dealers hungry for his work.

"He had his pot-boilers which put food on the table, but I don't think he ever, in his serious works, fudged in what he was trying to say," he said.

Mr Hart spent 18 years in the Broken Hill mines driving underground trains before turning to art for a living.

"He would paint after work, and before work and at the weekends," son Kym said.

Asked to explain his father's popularity, Kym replied: "Because he painted Australians in their own environment, doing their own things.

Born and raised in Broken Hill, Mr Hart went on to raise a family and build an art gallery there.



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