Pro Hart was one of Australia’s most popular and controversial artists. Born Kevin Charles Hart in Broken Hill, NSW on the 30th May 1928, his early years were spent on the family sheep property “Larloona Station”, near Menindee, NSW. Pro’s first real brush with art was at a young age when correspondence school lessons and school of the air was thrust upon his carefree young life, with his mother being tutor to both Pro and his brother Bob. He was always able to sketch and paint, and at the age of seven years Pro started to illustrate his school essays – often in preference to writing them. Purely self-taught with no formal art training, the Pro Hart Australian style began to emerge.
Pro’s family moved to Broken Hill in 1940 so Pro and his brother Bob could attend Marist Brothers college. He completed his education and started work in the mines and after a twelve-hour shift painted long into the night and weekends. This period in Pros life forged a strong Christian spirit and his compassion for the ‘ordinary folk ‘. The time underground instilled in him a deep passion to record in his art the realities and harshness, not only of a miner’s lot, but life in general. With this interesting background it is no wonder that his art reflects the true character of Australia and Australians.
Pro was also a sculptor. He began sculpting in the 1960’s using ceramics, bronze and silver before discovering steel, which he considers to be his best medium. Many of Pro’s sculptures can be found in and around Broken Hill town.
In 1962 a gallery director in Adelaide, South Australia discovered him. As a result of his first exhibition, the Pro Hart legend was born. Since that time Pro developed a highly individualistic semi-primitive style, depicting scenes typical of the Australian outback. Working in oils and water colours with both brush and pallet knife and using vivid colours true to the harshness of the outback, his paintings have won world acclaim.
His paintings depict the vastness of the outback with its harsh yet beautiful landscape and sheep stations from where he grew up. Pro loved to find comedy in outback events such as the country Race Meetings and the huge family picnics in the dried-up creek beds. Other great areas of inspiration are the long sandy beaches with people at play and the cosmopolitan metropolises with workers hurrying about their, seemingly, never ending business. His quirky insect series became famous when millions saw the cleaning lady on television throwing up her hands and saying, ‘Mr Hart, what a mess!’ after Pro had turned the Du Pont carpet into a canvas and transformed the food mess into a gorgeous dragonfly. Pro Hart art captures a unique history of Australia its people and their lifestyle.
Pro has many achievements to add to his successes. In recognition of his outstanding service to art, in 1976 Pro Hart was award the distinction, Member of the British Empire’ and more recently admitted to the Order of St John as a Serving Brother by Her Majesty the Queen of England. In 1982 he received an Honorary Life Membership of Society International Artistique for outstanding artistic achievement. This award is granted to only one artist per continent. In 1983 he received an Australian Citizen of the Year Award.
Pro’s paintings now hang in the Art Galleries of NSW and SA, the Mertz Collection and the White House Collection in the U.S.A., Buckingham Palace, London, as well as private collections all over the world.
Pro Hart’s own Gallery houses one of the largest private collections in Australia including a major collection of over 300 Dobell etchings. The gallery features both Australian and European masters. It also houses many collections such as antique baby rattles, baccarat paperweights, Chinese Ming, old silver and perfume bottles and many sculptures. Also housed in his gallery is a Rodgers Electronic Pipe Organ – the largest of its type in Australia.
Pro Hart was one of Australia’s most loved and colourful characters, his paintings are in numerable collections world-wide, he has illustrated 14 books, has had 19 International exhibitions, has been reproduced on cards, mouse pads, place mats, coasters, mugs, prints, limited edition prints and calendars. In more recent years, the production of giclée’s, silk screens and etchings became Pro’s focus and have continued to be highly collectable.
The year 2000 was a turning point in Pro’s career with new management taking Pro into a new direction. A World Heritage Art exhibition was organised exhibiting Pro’s work as well as his 5 talented children. There were over 300 people in attendance including celebrities and government dignitaries. Pro decided to encrypt all of his paintings with a DNA solution giving verification of authenticity. He also chose only one gallery in each state of Australia to be his exclusive agent. David Hart Galleries was selected to become his authorised Queensland agent and has continued every year to be his best-selling gallery.
Pro was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in December 2005 which is a progressive fatal condition that causes muscles to weaken and waste. On Tuesday, 28 March 2006, Pro Hart passed away peacefully in his home town of Broken Hill at the age of 77 surrounded by his wife and children. Pro was given a State Funeral and it was evident that he was truly a remarkable Australian, loved and remembered for his contribution to the Australian art scene and to the community.
In November 2006, David Hart Galleries presented a Pro Hart Tribute Exhibition which sold more than any other exhibition in his entire 47-year career, proving that Australian’s desire to have a piece of Australian history in their homes.
Pro loved Australia, and Australia loved him. He will be greatly missed!