Bernard Hesling

Enamel Artist 1905-1987

~Very few paintings I now own are important to anyone but me, but they still give me pleasure. Yes! Art is the one race meeting where the punter can't lose.~
- Bernard Hesling

Bernard Hesling was a British born, Australian artist (arriving here in 1928) who pioneered the use of vitreous enamels in this country. He was an innovator in design and materials, at one stage using white enamelled stove panels as a canvas for his works. In addition to his enamel work, (he also painted in conventional oils) he was a cartoonist, a writer and at one point, an art critic for the Sydney Observer. Some of his quirky book titles include:

Art Ruined my Career in Crime
Stir up This Stew
I Left my Tears in the Fridge
Little and Orphan

Prior to arriving in Australia he worked for a time in Paris as a house painter and marbler. During this period his own art work was initially influenced by the primitives, such as L├ęger, Vlaminck and Marie Laurencin, whom he met while in France...but he later developed a more complex abstract style and was greatly influenced by the vivid colours and characteristics of his adopted homeland. Hesling's work is easily identifiable as not too many artits were working in enamel and his colours and designs too, were distinctive and certainly unconventional.

While Hesling is not exactly an international house-hold name, he does have a devoted fan base of collectors and his trays and smaller tables currently sell at auction somewhere in the low thousands, though some of his large works have sold for much more..

Sixties "TV" table. Photo by Macx
Sixties "TV" table. Photo by Macx


Why do we sometimes form strong attachments to inanimate objects? The little table in the picture above is mine - my Grandmother bought it from Georges, a now defunct Melbourne department store, in the late 1950's/early 60's. The tables were designed for the new TV generation (which began in 1956 in Australia)..the tray lifts off so you can put it on your knee and enjoy dinner in front of the box. How decadent! It's an object that's always been around me and despite being incredibly attached to it, for it's history and associations as well as what I consider its beauty, for reasons that are way too dull to dwell on, I'm compelled to send it to auction next month. Oh I know, it's only a "thing"...and yet, it's a serious wrench. Still, by creating this hub, I am, in a way, retaining a connection to it.

I consider it a fine example of Hesling's work - it's both distinctly mid-20th century as well as distinctly Australian. The colours are bright but earthy, in contrast to his often garish hues. The tiny dots are reminiscent of native dot paintings and indeed, the designs do appear to be influenced by aboriginal cave drawings. Borrowing from aboriginal culture would be considered a very un-pc thing to do these days. It's unique. I sincerely hope it goes to a good home.

Inspired by aboriginal cave drawings...?
Inspired by aboriginal cave drawings...?


Joan Kerr, Dictionary of Australian Artists Online:

Powerhouse Museum:

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Comments 17 comments

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

You are right, Jane, Hesling is not a well-known name to me, but he is a remarkable artist. Thanks for the excellent introduction.

Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Nice to see art that touches upon Australian themes and ideas.

De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

Thank you for this. I had nevr heard of him before and this is a wonderful introduction to him. :-)

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

drbj, i really appreciate the comment here. So thanks.I love this table!

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Rod, thank you too. Hesling was at least an original I think...even if he did borrow from aboriginal art. The melding of the two cultures is kind of interesting.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

De Greek, great to see you in here! Thanks.

profile image

alberich 6 years ago

Great! Rating up! You always have a pinch of pearls behind your back.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Hey alberich...nice to see you. And thanks!

Joshua Kell profile image

Joshua Kell 5 years ago from Arizona

Loved it.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Hello Joshua, I haven't seen you for ages. Thank you for dropping in!

Joshua Kell profile image

Joshua Kell 5 years ago from Arizona

I've been traveling a lot; and am trying to catch up. I have missed your work. It is nice to see your still writing great hubs. I had a 'spell' of writers block, and 'Prodigal Jonahitus'(lol)- what a curse... Take care.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author take care too Joshua.

Kerrie Ireland (Hesling) 4 years ago

Bernard Hesling did a mural at Dee Why Hotel many years ago, signed B. Hesling and my dad and his brothers used to tell people as a joke that he painted it because his name is Buzz Hesling (of course Buzz being his nick name). I never realised until today how famous Bernard was. Are we related in any way....I am not quite sure. But i have just purchased a couple of his books for my dad because like Bernard he is very funny. Thank you Jane, I enjoyed your writing.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 4 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Thanks for that Kerrie. I've got a soft spot for the old Bernard Hesling..and I tell you what, I really miss that table!

Karoline 4 years ago

Fantastic hub, looking forward to come back and see your new posts. Thank you.

My art gallery

sara 4 years ago

i've recently inherited many random oddities from my old gran, just passed, amongst which is an enamel plate, a Sydney-city scape featuring 'Claude Neon' signs, by Bernard Hesling. I'd very much like to have someone who's a bit expert on the old man give me a bit more insight into it's history and value, could you point me in the right direction? sara @ I'm England based nowadays, so Oz contact only by the net. Ta!

Routa 3 years ago

Beryl , what an Beryl , what an amazing recpie, I followed your directions to the T and it was amazing my wife and 2 children 3 & 5 yrs old all ate it up. AMAZING , That night the kids slept wit my wife & I because they do that some nights and all 4 of us were in our king size bed and Laughing because those beans gave us some wonderful anal artillary. I will check out some of your other video's as wellBlessings and Grace,Warren Tibbs , KC Missouri

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