Still Alive

Leaving a Legacy in Bathurst

When Jean Bellette (1908–1981) painted this modernist still life in the kitchen of her newly-acquired weekender in Hill End, she could not have foreseen the legacy she was creating for the arts in Bathurst. Her painting won the inaugural Carillon City Festival Art Prize in 1955 and was the first work acquired for the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery collection.

Bellette was already an influential presence in the Sydney art world. She was an organiser of the Sydney Art Group in the 1940s, and won the Sulman Prize in 1942 and 1944. In the 1950s she became a mobilising force in the cultural development of Bathurst. As well as leading painting classes at the Bathurst School of the Arts, she hosted visiting artists at the Hill End cottage she and her husband Paul Haefliger, who was the art critic for the Sydney Morning Herald, bought in 1954. Their friend and fellow artist Donald Friend was already living in the tiny gold rush village, so it soon became a thriving arts community.

Many more artworks have been created in her cottage since, a legacy enjoyed by artists who’ve spent time there under a residency program managed by Bathurst Regional Art Gallery and National Parks NSW. Belette bequeathed the cottage as an artist’s residency upon her death in 1991. Together with Donald Friend’s home, Murray’s Cottage, acquired in 2003, Haefligers Cottage is part of the internationally acclaimed Hill End Artists in Residence Program. The Jean Bellette Gallery in the Hill End Visitor Information Centre highlights the village’s importance as an Australian cultural site, and Bellette’s continued significance as an artist and advocate for the arts.