Top O’Hahndorf

Born Sussex, England 1906, arrived Australia 1924, died Crafers, South Australia 1993


Based in Adelaide, Ivor Francis was both an artist and arts writer. He exhibited with the Adelaide Contemporary Art Society, worked as a newspaper art critic and ran his own art journal titled Ivor’s Review, published monthly between 1956 and 1960.

The notable surrealist tendencies in Francis’s art were enhanced on contact with Max Harris, whom he met in the mid-1940s. Harris, a South Australian poet and intellectual, was a founder with John Reed of the Angry Penguins journal (a modernist avant-garde publication) in 1940, and the originator of the group’s peculiar name. Francis became associated with the group of artists and writers working with Reed and Harris (including Albert Tucker and Sidney Nolan) and was heavily influenced by Harris’s novel The vegetative eye (1943).

Top O’Hahndorf (1970), with its eerie, foreboding atmosphere was one of a number of works produced by Francis in the late 1960s and early 1970s in this vein. These images hark back to his brooding landscapes of the 1940s, and reflected his ongoing interest in supernatural phenomena and science fiction and other literature.

In 1987 the Art Gallery of South Australia held a major retrospective, and the following year his work was included in The Great Australian Art Exhibition 1788–1988, Art Gallery of South Australia and touring all state galleries (1988–89). In 1989 Francis was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia.

His work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia, Australian War Memorial, several tertiary and regional gallery collections in Victoria and Western Australia.