Hugh Sawrey

Hugh Sawrey was born at Forest Glen, near Buderim, Queensland, in 1919, the second son of timber-getter George Sawrey and his wife, Jane. His mother was widowed by a falling branch so the young Hugh followed his mother through various station properties in outback Queensland where she worked as a cook. He left school at age fourteen and found his first job as a jackeroo at Jessievale Station in the Gulf Country and for thirty years went droving and, apart from the time he served in New Guinea during World War II, working on cattle stations in regional Queensland, the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys in Western Australia. He was largely self taught as an artist, initially experimenting with drawing with charcoal from campfires on any paper he was able to scrounge but during the 1960s when he decided on a career as an artist, took lessons from Caroline Barker and attended Jon Molvig’s drawing classes which, at that time were quite informal. Molvig ceased giving these classes in 1966.(

 Hugh Sawrey's love of the Australian bush stems from his childhood. His father died when Hugh was only three years old and Hugh moved from Forest Glen with his mother and brother to live in Brisbane. After one year of secondary schooling, Sawrey took to the bush when he was 14 and began working, sending money back to assist his mother during the bleak days after the Great Depression.
Hugh Sawrey was no stranger to the hardship of the Australian outback. He became an expert horseman and all-round bushman when working as a head drover, rabbiter, axeman and shearer. Sawrey travelled extensively throughout the interior of Queensland and the Northern Territory, often befriending Aborigines and occasionally being rewarded with access to remote tribal sacred places. Many of his paintings of aboriginal stock boys and cattle mustering were inspired by his travels from Alexandria Downs in the Northern Territory to Tiberoo Station, out from Eulo. His droving experiences took him mustering out past the Cooper and Diamantina, and as far west as Western Australia.

He enlisted during World War II and experienced active service in Papua New Guinea. When the war was over, Sawrey used his service pay to buy a small mob of cattle which he ran on his mother's small and harsh property on the Darling Downs.
Unfortunately his cattle were wiped out in a drought in 1947 and Sawrey moved back to work in the interior. During this time he scribbled sketches and painted on anything he could find. In the earlier days he would take a piece of charcoal from the campfire and draw on the camp shovel. In this arid environment he began to develop his talent for painting bush scenes and his subject matter was drawn directly from his own personal experiences and observations of the outback. His work is evocative and foremost it presents an honest representation of the way the bush is, as Hugh simply said: "I paint what I see."

 In his impressionable years as a stockman and developing artist, Sawrey mustered cattle on many of the runs known to Kidman and his men. Everywhere he went, he carried scraps of paper in his saddle bag to sketch the life around him and he began to paint all the facets of life he knew as a stockman. Ever present was his desire was to show town's people what went on beyond the city lights. Sawrey said: "In my paintings and drawings I have tried to be honest and factual above all things because Australia is an honest land." A lifetime of outback stories are related by Sawrey in his works which are a valuable narrative about life on the land in Australia.

In 1965 Sawrey decided to become a full-time artist and he set up his first studio in the Royal Hotel in Queen Street, Brisbane. Since then he prospered and became a renowned Australian painter with his paintings being actively sought by collectors and investors. In his latter years, Sawrey lived with his wife Gill in Victoria where they established a renowned quarter horse stud. Along with breeding and training quarter horses, Hugh painted from his studio on the property.(

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