Broken Hill enjoys a reputation as one of the most active art communities in Australia - perhaps with more artisans per head of population than anywhere else in the world – headlined by the internationally-acclaimed 'Brushmen of the Bush'.
Created in 1973, the 'Brushmen of the Bush' was an eclectic partnership of five Broken Hill-based artists, who were drawn together for a single exhibition in Sydney that led to international acclaim.
Founding father Eric Minchin invited Hugh Schulz, John Pickup and Jack Absalom to be part of the group and the quartet was quickly joined by Broken Hill’s most famous artist, Pro Hart, and went on to showcase the art of outback Australia to the world.
Dubbed the 'Brushmen of the Bush' by journalist Lorraine Hickman, the group enjoyed a prolific demand for their paintings while exhibiting throughout Australia, as well as Los Angeles, New York, London and Rome.
The 'Brushmen' enjoyed the privilege on two occasions of an official Royal opening, when in 1976 HRH the Duchess of Kent opened the London exhibition and in 1977 HRH the Prince of Wales opened an exhibition in Canberra.
While they staged some 50 exhibitions, the men never actually painted together as a group, which is reflected by their range of styles and expressive techniques. Their diverse backgrounds as a kangaroo shooter (Absalom), miner (Hart), accountant (Minchin) prospector (Schulz) and broadcaster (Pickup) added to their mystique.
To honour their contribution to the city through art, Broken Hill City Council declared 2006 “The Year of the Brushmen of the Bush” and a retrospective exhibition toured 11 galleries in NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria between 2006 and 2009.
As well as lifting the profile of outback art, Eric Minchin’s vision was also to raise money for charity and in the 20 years until his death in 1994 the group raised more than one million dollars.
Eric Minchin died on 15 June, 1994, Hugh Schulz on 23 September, 2005, and Pro Hart was afforded a State Funeral following his death on 28 March, 2006. Jack Absalom is the sole surviving member of the group who lives in Broken Hill, while John Pickup resides in the Queensland city of Mackay.