Ivor Henry Thomas Hele (1912–1993) was born in the Adelaide suburb of Edwardstown. An official war artist in North Africa, New Guinea and Korea, his paintings reflect the essential nature of these theatres in their telling use of light and colour.

Focusing on the soldiers themselves, Hele conveyed a bizarre horror at war’s destructiveness, revulsion for human depravity and sympathy for human misery, through the medium of male beauty and athleticism. The breadth of his achievements shows the vastness of his talent and accounts for critical ambivalence. Possibly Australia’s most important war artist, Hele won several prizes including five Archibalds and was knighted in 1983.  

By Carol Fort

This entry was first published in The Wakefield companion to South Australian history edited by Wilfrid Prest, Kerrie Round and Carol Fort (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2001). Edited lightly. Uploaded 4 September 2015.

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Image: An upper body portrait photograph of a man in an army uniform, and wearing an army hat with chin strap.
Image: Upper body portrait photograph of a man wearing a shirt with sleeves rolled up, and a large wide brimmed hat
Image: A man standing holding a paintbrush and a cloth, looking at a framed painting of a soldier, the painting is on an easel
Image: A man crouching down holding a drawing board, and a pencil and looking into the distance
Image: A side profile drawing of a man with a bare upper body with arms and one leg up in a jumping position
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