Ivor Hele was born in Edwardstown, and started early training at the age of seven with James Ashton, followed by lessons at the South Australian School of Art. Later, extensive studies in Europe further developed his already obvious talent.
Hele was awarded several prestigious Australian art awards, including the Archibald Prize for Portraiture on five occasions. He was appointed official war artist to the Australian forces in both World War II and the Korean War, and his grimly realistic paintings are among the most impressive of any done during those conflicts.
Knighted in 1983, Hele lived at Aldinga, South Australia, for a number of years before his death.
The oil paintings in the Carrick Hill collection span a period of almost 20 years in Hele's life. During his time in Europe, he studied under Biloul, one of the best-known painters of the nude, as well as receiving intensive training in anatomy from Moliere in Munich. The results of such studies are amply evident in the powerful, but varied, figures in the following works.
RECLINING GIRL, 1937, was painted early in Hele's career. This is a picture of carefree adolescence, as the young girl daydreams, snatching a brief moment of leisure during a respite from her walk. Hele has painted this work from a viewpoint above the subject, his broad brushstrokes diagonally linking her bent knees and arms.
The radiant pink and red colours of her apparel coalesce with her warm flesh tones, and with the glowing hues of a bright summer day in the Australian countryside. The brightness of the day is emphasised by the strong contrasts of light and shade, reinforced by Hele's firm paintwork.
The gentle folds of her clothes emphasise the dreamy, languorous mood of this scene, in which her arms shield her face and protect her privacy. She is alone with nature, in a harmony of glorious colour, and absorbed in her thoughts. Soon she will pick up her hat and walk out of the picture, into a future which should be as bright and promising as this sunlit respite. The portrait of EDWARD HAYWARD, 1951, was one of two works Hele submitted for the Archibald Prize in 1951. His other entry (a portrait of Laurie Thomas) gave Hele his first win in this important art competition.
This honest and realistic portrait of Edward Hayward was painted by Hele in his own Aldinga garden, against the background of a hugemulberry tree. Hele was a close friend of Edward and Ursula Hayward. Such rapport is evident in the way the artist has captured the relaxed, casual pose of the genial benefactor who founded the John Martin's Christmas Pageant and, with his wife Ursula, bequeathed Carrick Hill to the people of South Australia.
Against a fresh and spontaneous atmospheric background, Hele has the figure of Edward Hayward dominating most of the canvas space. Seated against a floral cushion symbolic of his Carrick Hill garden demesne, Hayward's frank, open expression is indicative of the generous spirit of this Antipodean squire. The colours are subtle, not overwhelming the personality of the sitter, whose strong features are emphasised by Hele's handling of light, composition and awareness of form and texture. Hele has caught not only the likeness but also the character of Edward Hayward who, with his direct gaze, invites the visitor to share and enjoy Carrick Hill.
While Hele's oil paintings show his delight in colours, his drawings of the femaie nude show his mastery of form, in the symmetry, contrasting curves and angles of the unadorned female body. In Hele's FEMALE NUDE I, 1934, a very sensuously-finished drawing, and FEMALE NUDE II, 1951, the artist finds the human figure a subject of inexhaustible interest, always producing fresh challenges for his talent.
Hele's skill as a draughtsman is shown in the drawing of LT. EDWARD HAYWARD, 1940 (done some years before his oil painting of the same subject ), where the artist's economical style captures the subtle nuances and personality of the sitter.
WOODLEY, 1955, represents one of the dearly-loved Great Danes belonging to the Haywards.
Hele's home was not far from the Port Willunga residence of Edward and Ursula Hayward. These drawings were all gifts of the artist to the Haywards, and were hung in their Port Willunga house.