Nora Heysen (1911-2003, Australian)

Nora HeysenNora Heysen (1911-2003, Australian) was born in Hahndorf, South Australia to the artist Hans Heysen. Due to the influence of her father, she studied art from 1926-1930 at the School of Fine Arts in Adelaide. Heysen held her first solo exhibition in Sydney in 1933.

Heysen was the first woman to win the coveted Archibald Prize in 1938 for her portrait of Madame Elik Schuurman.

In 1942, she was the first woman to be appointed as a war artist with the objective of capturing women’s contributions to the war effort. By the time her commission expired in 1946, she had created over 170 works.

Heysen’s works depict her own unique realism, which she used to capture the white cats in her garden. She described herself as “a general provider for animals and all the strays”, which came to her garden. Her great pleasures were home, cats and garden which she included in her art.


Nora Heysen (Australian, 1911-2003) - Morning sun, 1965

Morning Sun, 1965


Even though Nora Heysen faded from view for several decades, she was once again a subject of interest in the 80’s. In 1993, she was awarded the Australia Council’s Award for Achievement in the Arts and on 26 January 1998 she was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for her service to art.

Heysen’s works are currently held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Australian War Memorial, the National Library of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, and several state galleries.


Nora Heysen, Cat Sketch


Nora Heysen, Cat Sketch, 1966


Heysen Nora Cat with Still Life

Cat with Still Life


A Boy with his cat, 1972 - Nora Heysen (Australian, 1911-2003)

A Boy with his cat, 1972


Want to know more about the cat in literature, art and history? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for  you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 


Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats


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