Important Fine Art + Aboriginal Art
2 December 2015


(1884 – 1961)

oil on canvas

99.5 x 80.5 cm

signed lower right: E.H. Rix Nicholas
bears inscription on Macquarie Galleries label verso:...33. THE SHEPHERD OF KNOCKALONG / 1933 (EDGAR WRIGHT AND RIX)...

$180,000 – 250,000
Sold for $219,600 (inc. BP) in Auction 41 - 2 December 2015, Sydney

Rix and Edgar Wright, New South Wales
Macquarie Galleries, Sydney (label attached verso)
Dr J. P. Rasmussen OAM, Sydney, acquired from the above in 1978


Anthony Hordern & Sons, Sydney
Exhibition by women artist's of Australia, Education Department's Art Gallery, Sydney, 12 – 25 July 1934
An Exhibition of Pictures of Australian Life and Landscape by Hilda Rix Nicholas, David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney, 15 June 1936, cat. 7
Hilda Rix Nicholas, 1884 – 1961, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 30 August – 18 September 1978, cat. 33 (label attached verso)
A Private Eye in a Public Place, St. Swithun's, Pymble, October 1980, cat. 78
Hilda Rix Nicholas, 1884 – 1961, Ian Potter Gallery, the University of Melbourne Museum of Art, 20 September – 27 October 1990, cat. 37 (label attached verso)
A Private Collection: A Century of Australian Heritage, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 20 June – 21 July 1991, cat. 62 (illus. exhibition catalogue)
Hilda Rix Nicholas: The Man for the Job, Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria, 23 January – 5 April 2010
Paris to Monaro: Pleasures from the studio of Hilda Rix Nicholas, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 31 May – 11 August 2013Anthony Hordern & Sons, Sydney


‘Big Display by Women Artist’s of Australia’, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 21 July 1934, p. 1 (illus.)
Draffin, N., Art of Hilda Rix Nicholas, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Project 26, Art in Australia, no. 6, 1987
Mendelssohn, J., 'Public grief, private happiness', The Bulletin, 2 October 1990, p. 102
Pigot, J., Hilda Rix Nicholas: Her Life and Art, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 2000, pp. 62, 66, pl. 28 (illus.)
Peers, J., 'Hilda Rix Nicholas and William Frater: Impressive Monographs from Miegunyah Press', Art and Australia, vol. 38, no. 3, 2001, p. 388 (illus.)
Grishin, S., 'All hail the queen of Knockalong', Canberra Times, 28 June 2013
Engledow, S., Paris to Monaro: Pleasures from the studio of Hilda Rix Nicholas, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 2013, p. 187 (illus.)

Catalogue text

The Shepherd of Knockalong, 1933 is one of a series of pictures Hilda Rix Nicholas produced about the life on the land in the Monaro of New South Wales, one of the centres of Australia’s rich and productive pastoral history. Perhaps the most internationally recognised Australian artist of the early twentieth century, Rix Nicholas is a distinguished and important painter by any standard. Having trained at the National Gallery School, Rix Nicholas travelled abroad where she trained at the best Paris schools such as the Académie de la Grande Chaumiere with Claudio Castelucho and Théophile Alexandre Steinlen as well as the Académie Delecluse and Colarossi’s, where artists such as Henri Matisse worked over the same period. Early success came when Rix Nicholas’s oil, Retour de la Chasse was hung on the line at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1911. In 1913 she exhibited 35 works painted in Spain and Morocco at La Société des Peintres Orientalistes Français, and a further 11 works there in 1914. Her work was purchased by the couturier Leon Worth and the Gallery Luxembourg bought her oil, Le Grand Marché of 1912.

Following a very successful career exhibiting in Paris and Sydney following the years which she spent in London, Paris, Etaples and Tangiers when she was in her late twenties, Rix Nicholas underwent a period of great tragedy in her life, losing her Mother Elizabeth, her sister Elsie and her husband George Matson Nicholas during the years of the great war. She returned to Australia, accompanied by her brother-in -law, in May 1918. After a period of living and painting in Sydney during her thirties and also undertaking a trip back to Paris accompanied by Dorothy Richmond, Hilda Rix Nicholas met Edgar Wright during a painting trip to outback NSW with Dorothy. She married him 2 June 1928. Rix was born on September 25 1930 just after her 43rd birthday.

The Shepherd of Knockalong, is one of the first works that Hilda Rix Nicholas produced, following her return to painting in 1933-4, after the birth of her only child, (Barry) Rix Wright in September 1930. She had stopped painting during Rix’s infancy but following his growth into boyhood, Rix Nicholas began once again to translate the life around her into works of art. Rix Nicholas focussed upon her family’s station Knockalong, located in Delegate in the Monaro Plains.

Her letters and diaries are full of the delight which motherhood brought her and the pleasure she gained from organising parties for Rix and the children of the district which included pantomimes and plays which she performed in her studio in costume. Knockalong was a large and successful pastoral station, run by Edgar and his station hands. He is here represented as the ‘Shepherd of Knockalong’. Later in his life she painted a portrait of Edgar, inspecting the fleece in a woolshed on an adjoining property (The Fleece, 1945, National Gallery of Australia).In this delightful picture, we see Edgar standing astride the landscape, with Knockalong stretching behind him. He gently guides Rix with one arm, gazing fondly at his young son, who points towards the lamb he carries in the other. The work is a natural and happy portrait of family life in a pastoral setting and clearly illustrates the artist’s contentment with her role as wife and mother. Several years later she put these emotions into words when she wrote in a letter ‘I always think Edgar’s grand big character, his free, large and generous outlook is just like the big Tombong Range and distant hills and mountains – that his grand character, unselfish and large and brave has been influenced by the lovely large landscape he belongs to. It was this spaciousness and simplicity in him and in the space which drew me to him and his life, and in which I felt repose and complete rest after my full life and big sadness.’1

The painting was illustrated in a review of a large exhibition of the work of female artists held at the NSW Education Department in July 1934, which appeared in the Australian Women’s Weekly.2 The painting also promoted the retrospective Paris to Monaro: Pleasures from the Studio of Hilda Rix Nicholas, held at the National Portrait Gallery in 2013.

1. Letter from Hilda Rix Nicholas to Rix Wright, 3 October 1947, Rix Nicholas Archive quoted in Pigot, J., Hilda Rix Nicholas, Her Life and Art, Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 2000, p. 70
2. ‘Big Display by Women Artists of Australia’, Australian Women’s Weekly, 21 July 1934, p. 21

Author of Hilda Rix Nicholas and Elsie Rix's Moroccan Idyll: Art and Orientalism, Miegunyah Press, 2012