Nora Heysen

Gallery 4

About this work of art

Audio description of the work of art

Ruth by Australian artist Nora Heysen is a portrait format oil painting on canvas. Painted in 1933 in Hahndorf, South Australia it is 81.5cm high and 64.2cm wide.

A portrait, Ruth, is a young woman in her upper teens or early twenties. Depicted from the hips up facing the viewer, she stands with her strong arms loosely folded, her left side slightly forward. She wears a simple short-sleeved black dress, with a scooped circular neckline that shows her neck and collarbone.

Ruth’s arms and face are a healthy pink, her pale white skin darkened by the sun. She has a rounded forehead, a sloping nose and a rounded jawline with a cleft chin. She has large, almost oversized, blue-grey eyes with dark eye lashes and prominent dark eyebrows. Her red lips are full but unsmiling.

Her brown hair, parted on the left, is pulled away from her face and behind each ear into two thick plaits. Her left plait falls in front of her left shoulder, the other falls behind her right shoulder. A short curling length of hair has escaped, falling against her cheek just in front of her left ear.

Ruth’s face, hair, neck and arms are created with blended paint-strokes, for her skin is smooth and her features detailed. Her black dress is painted with larger layered criss-crossed brush strokes that give the appearance of slight folds in the cloth.

Behind Ruth, in the lower half of the painting, are greens, greys and browns. The paint has been applied irregularly, almost roughly, to represent the farming landscape where the painting was created, Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills.

In the lower left is a pond surrounded by trees and crops. Diagonal splotches of brown and green paint are ploughed fields in the lower right. Paler green rounded shapes either side of Ruth are distant grassy paddocks, trees, hills and valleys.

A cloudless sky is behind Ruth’s head and shoulders in the upper half of the painting. Very pale blue at the horizon, the sky darkens towards the top.

The painting is signed and dated in the bottom right corner, ‘NORA HEYSEN. 1933’.