Hornsby Art Society
History - Arts in Hornsby Shire
For landscape artists, especially in the late 19th/early 20th century, the area provided a wealth of subjects of natural beauty. Berowra Creek was considered one of the most lovely branches of that far-flung Rhine of Australia, according to the Town & Country Journal of 1909 and the noted English author, Anthony Trollope, on visiting the Hawkesbury River area in 1871 commented that there are scenes of nature in Australia as lovely as are to be found in any part of the world. Old Man Valley was also (before the quarry) a particularly beautiful place. Little wonder then that it attracted artists not only to visit from other areas to paint but also to settle and make Hornsby Shire their home.
One of the earliest non-indigenous artists to settle in the area was George Collingridge, who settled on Berowra Creek in 1880 on what is now Collingridge Point. Trained in Europe, he with his brother Arthur, was the first non-indigenous artist to use the Hawkesbury area as a sketching-ground. In 1879, he was winner of 1st Prize for engraving at the Sydney International Exhibition and co-founder (with Arthur) in 1880 of the Art Society of N.S.W., now the Royal Art Society of N.S.W.
There followed a number of notable artists. George Lambert lived in Hornsby for only a short period but during this time, he painted in 1899 what is arguably his best painting Across the Black Soil Plains, in his studio at the back of his grandmothers house in William Street. It is also said that local horses were used as additional models for the painting.
Jesse Jewhurst Hilder (known as J.J.) moved with his family to Asquith in 1912 then to Inglewood at Hookhams Corner. His paintings of this period, as well as their inherent beauty, provide a valuable record in colour of the district at the time. Lloyd Rees' connection with the area through his second wife Marjorie Pollard's family home in West Pennant Hills, inspired some of his artwork. Arthur Streeton, on coming to spend Christmas with his family in 1906, spent some time in the area sketching and drawing the beautiful sites. Margaret Preston lived at Wanill Place in Berowra, a couple of kilometres from the Hawkesbury River, for about four years in the late 1930's. And finally, Lionel Lindsay was for some time a resident of Wahroonga and produced many of his wonderful engravings and etchings during this period.
In the early period there were no formalised or organised groups or societies of artists at the local level and exhibitions of the artists works either formed part of larger exhibitions in the city, or at the local level, were one-man exhibitions in local halls. Indeed artists in the city displayed their paintings in music-shop windows until, in 1880, George Collingridge and other Art Society members petitioned Henry Parkes for exhibition space in the Garden Palace for an Art Society exhibition.
In the 1960s the Hornsby Art Society was formed at the instigation of Rodney Milgate and his TAFE students and the Hornsby Shire Foundation for the Arts, (which was dissolved in 1992) came into existence in the same period. The driving force behind this second organisation was Dorothea Mitchell and annual exhibitions of the artists work were held mainly at Pennant Hills Community Centre.
As well as the visual arts, there has been a long tradition in the written and performing arts in this area. Over the years, there have been a number of writers resident in the area including, in earlier times, academic writers such as Professor Edgeworth David and George Collingridge. Others have written biographies, local histories and in 1973, the Historical Society conducted a poetry competition for the residents of the Shire and published a book containing most of the entries and some non-competitive poems - the first such book, it is considered, produced in the Shire. In another genre, Jimmy Bancks immortalised the exploits of many of the young residents of the time in his famous comic-strip, Ginger Meggs.
Hornsby has always had a proud tradition in the production of newspapers, from Progress (1895-1897) produced by George Collingridge, to the Hornsby Star and then currently the Advocate.
The performing arts has produced a number of performers who have continued on to national and sometimes international fame. To mention just one name as a solo performer of the earlier era, Frank Ifield became internationally famous as a singer of ballads and became a teen idol. Ida Elizabeth Jenkins, another local resident (although not a performer), was the composer of several songs for the ABC Children Session in the 1930s/1940s. There have also been a number of classical performers from this period who have gone on to professional careers.

This article has been edited from a presentation by Winsome and Edith Collingridge (granddaughters of George Collingridge) at an exhibition opening on 19th October 2009.