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A couple of months ago I was given a book that has inspired a greater interest for me in the many ruins and old buildings of the Outback.

It’s a collection of drawings, water colour and oil paintings of Outback homesteads, woodsheds and stockyards by South Australian artist Bruce Swann.

It was given to me by his son Phil and it turned out to be a better gift than he could have imagined.

His father was a stock auctioneer who travelled much of Outback Australia with his work. His greatest talent though, was drawing and painting the buildings and structures he saw in his travels. A lot of them have now become disused or ruins, others modernised or pulled down so it’s a good record of a changing world.

From time to time I come across the same buildings Bruce Swann drew decades ago and there’s now a link there for me to work with, for he’s caught the peace and beauty that is often associated with these old buildings or the sense of adversity in what is a hard and arid landscape.

There are at least four books that have been published of Swann’s work and some of his original drawings and painting are among some major collections here and overseas.

From the book “Swann’s Australia” I’ve taken these two water colours of the Nilpena Woolshed along with two of my own photographs.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Malcolm Arnold says:

    It pleases me no end to have a look at your images .The historical old buildings in our arid areas truly tell a tale of hardship and struggle but there is also a romance about them . Bruce Swann was a very good friend of mine . Before his untimely death we spent many wonderful hours together . In those days I used to sketch similar subject mater to bruce .We shared locations when looking for something interesting . His wife Clem was/is ( haven’t heard from Clem for many years) also a wonderful person . Bruce actually got into his art because of a massive heart attack . I will tell you a little story re this . I was/am very close friends with the nurse who treated Bruce when he was hospitalised after this attack . I , at her request , invited Bruce and Clem to my friends little cottage in the Barossa Valley . Margaret is the greatest cook so a banquet was on hand . much red wine and many tales were told .At about 3 pm Clem gave Bruce a kick under the table . Bruce let out a great cackle . He told us that this was a signal from Clem that was always prearranged . IF the dinner or occassion was boring it was a signal to get out any way they could .If the day was going well then they stayed .it must have been going well for they stayed for two days .On the second day Bruce wandered off down the road .he came back with a beautiful drawing of Margaret and her husband,s cottage . Now a wonderful and cherished gift .yes Bruce was a true gentleman and just great bloke .I will remember him well .In fact I was having a joint exhibition with him when the news came through that he had died . Fond , fond memories came flooding back when looking at this blog page of yours THANK YOU Malcolm

  • Gavin Weston says:

    As an 18 year old I Jackerooed on Yudnapinna Station for 2 years. Later I traveled the outback covering from Commonwealth Hill to Arkaroola as a traveller for Elder Smith & Co Ltd., and as a Carerpillar Rep for the SA Tractor Company Limited. This job took me into the opal fields of Andamooka and Coober Pedy. On my early visits to Coober Pedy I stayed in the underground accommodation of the school teachers at the local school. I did all of my traveling in the outback in two wheel drive cars, except for one year I was supplied an Austin Gypsy 4WD. I also went west along the Great Australian Bight beyond Penong. I have a colour photo I took of the cairn at the head of the Great Australian Bight in 1958. I really appreciate the work of Bruce Swan.

    • Peter MacDonald says:

      Bruce Swann was indeed a fine artist and I am often reminded of his work in my travels. Best. Peter