It's Art of John Cornwell


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About the Artist


John Cornwell is a fifth generation Australian, born (1930) and brought up in Sydney.    He is a modern traditional painter in oil, of mostly rural subjects, and a sculptor. 

 After leaving school I took up a scholarship and spent three years full time at the National Art School at East Sydney. I was very fortunate as art was abut the only thing at which I excelled

Leaving there, I went out into the world to earn a living. 

In the early 1950’s there were not many fine artists actually earning a living from painting, so in search of an occupation, I tried jackerooing, but eventually set up a screen printing business which kept me busy for the next 18 years. During this time I married and had 2 sons, but in 1970 decided to return to art.

My ‘swan song” in screen printing was the production of all the banners decorating the Sydney CBD for the Captain Cook Bicentenary celebrations.

Lady luck was good to me and I got to do murals for the Gazebo Hotel at Kings Cross and the Terrace Hotel in Brisbane, followed by complete walls of murals on various themes for six Cahills Restaurants, including some of Angkor Wat.. Some of these stood the test of time and remained on site for 30 years – often till the building was demolished or remodelled.

The shop fitters would deliver panels cut to fit the architecture of the rooms, to my old house at Roseville, where they were hoisted to the upstairs verandah rail. I had to knock out the lintel of the French doors and tilt up the fan to get panels 8 feet by 12 feet into my 16 by 16 foot disused bedroom, used as my studio. The set destined for “The Windsor Tavern” was filmed and shown on TV.About this time, the delightful gentleman who ran the Cahills Restaurants – single-handed with only a secretary telephonist to help – came and said goodbye. He had sadly been diagnosed with bone cancer, and had sold the business and was returning to his native Switzerland, where he died not long afterwards.


For some time I had been preparing a solo exhibition to be held at the Sebert Gallery in the Rocks in Sydney. This was called “The Homage to Australian Art” For this I did portraits of selected artists which I set in the midst of their own paintings. For example I pictured William Dobell with the cement worker in “Bill with the Boys”, and having afternoon tea with Dame Mary Gilmore, Margaret Olley and Helena Rubinstein in another.

This exhibition attracted a plenty of attention, sold well, and started me on my way.

Shortly after, I was staying with a cousin on his property at Burren Junction. I had just finished a large landscape of the ‘vast extended plains’ which needed a centre of attention when along came a great team of Clydesdales pulling a ”delver”. This is like the prow of a ship, with a long keel, used to clean out the bore drains which were a much as 60 miles long. These drains are the overflow from artesian bores, supplying water for stock and irrigation. I added this as a focal point. It sold quickly and horses have been requested in my paintings ever since. My painting over the years has been largely rural Australiana, featuring the many roles that horses and even cattle have filled both in the past and today. Horses are used not only for pleasure, but working cattle and sheep and bullocks still haul timber in places where the country is too steep for tractors.

When our sons left home, we sold the Victorian house, which we had been working on for 20 years, and bought an old Victorian farmhouse, with outbuildings and some land on the western side of Kiama. We had family connections with the area, and wonderful views from the house. I converted the abandoned cow bails into a very nice studio, on the top of a hill, with views of rolling hills, fig trees, stone walls, dairy cattle and sea, all backed by the escarpment.

The maintenance on all this, and the approach of suburbia, obliged us to sell up and move to a pleasant site at Kiama Heights more suited to our advancing years.

In all my exhibitions, now totalling 36, I have included some marine subjects, and was recently invited to join the Australian Society of Marine Artists.

In 200 I was invited to represent Australasia in a Global Exhibition in Muscat, Oman, followed by a tour of India.

Just to fill in my time, I am the President of the Kiama and District Historical Society, where amongst other things we run the local Pilot’s Cottage Museum. I am a Past President of Kiama Rotary, with whom I am still active, and a Paul Harris Fellow. I received a Commonwealth Centenary Medal in 2004


John'ss work has been reproduced as prints and decorative plates.    Bradford Exchange have issued three series of extremely popular plates: Our Mighty Clydesdales, Journey Through the Country, and Waltzing Matilda.   Many prints have been published of his work:

two prints, Bringing in the Station Stores, and Crossing the Forest Ford were published by John Cornwell Studios, and are readily available from his studio. Click here.

He has had 36 one-man exhibitions.  John became particularly well known for his realist paintings of working horses in  rural Australian landscape, and for character studies of country personalities. He researches material for these with extensive travel throughout Australia, including long rides, sometimes using packhorses.  

He is an exhibiting member of the Australian Society of Marine Artists.

He has made overseas study tours to Europe (6) and the USA (2). He was a guest of the Omani Society of Fine Arts for the Global Art Exhibition at the year 2000 Muscat Festival, where he was the sole representative of the Australian continent.


               Dear Mr Cornwell,

                                                  Its now over 40 years since I purchased one of your marvellous paintings at the Oxley Gallery in Tamworth, Australia. By way of explanation I was brought up at Tamworth, but have spent most of my adult living in Canada. It was on a visit home to see my mother that I was walking along Peel St, Tamworth and was gripped by one of your paintings in the gallery window, entitled Freddy leaving the farm, yes it was those marvellous Clydesdales that captivated me----- never before had I seen horses so well done, so I know I can tell you the purchase was made in record time. The painting is still as fresh as the day that I bought it and I want to thank you for giving me daily pleasure from your marvellous painting.....

       Very best wishes for 2011

                   K**** H******

A noted Australian artist, John is also an accomplished sculptor.  His work includes Flinders' cat Trim, in  bronze for the New South Wales State Public Library (Sydney 1996); and bronze bas-reliefs of an Infantryman and Land Army girl, for the Memorial Arch in Kiama Rotary Park, for "Australia Remembers," 1996, placed near his bronze bas-relief, The Pioneers, done in 1988.

Special requests  are welcomed. Let us know your requirements, and John can e-mail a sketch for your approval before doing the painting.

Popular subjects include Australiana, horsemen, Clydesdales, sheep, cattle, historical reconstructions, beloved a good There are a lot of letters and tomorrow said today that your pets, and marine paintings

8 horse team with a wool wagon. 350 x 263

"Dan and Dick on a Downhill Dip "

A team of Clydesdales taking wool from the station

Size 450mm x 600 mm Oil on canvas

John's many one-man shows include Exhibitions at:

Sebert Gallery, Sydney, 1973
Wyoming Court Gallery, Orange 1975, 1976, 1978
Roseville Galleries, Sydney 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981
Marsden Gallery, Bathurst 1979, 1983, 1984
Sylvania Galleries, Sydney 1992
Jinchilla Gallery, Dubbo 1994
Boyd Gallery, Narellan 1994, 1998, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009
The Sandstone Church, Kenthurst 1995 (2 man joint exhibition)
Represented Bronze bas-relief 1988, The Pioneers Kiama Rotary Park NSW
State Public Library bronze of Flinders cat, Trim, Sydney 1996
2 Bronze bas-reliefs for the Memorial Arch in Kiama Rotary Park, which was installed for "Australia Remembers" 1996.

John's paintings are in corporate and private collections throughout Australia, UK, USA, Canada, Japan, NZ, PNG, Malaysia and South Africa.

Reproductions of paintings feature on the best selling series of eight plates, Our Mighty Clydesdales", and four plates "Journey Through the Country", and four "Waltzing Matilda" from Bradford Exchange.  They are also reproduced as prints and on calendars.

For more information, see The Sculptor

Bearded man who is over eighty, the OBE   255 x 350 pixels


[Over Bloody Eighty]

Oil on canvas 250mm x 200mm Price: $525.00

Contact Information:

Telephone: 61 (0)2 4232 2583 gallery open by appointment

Postal Address:

P O Box 252, Kiama, NSW 2533

E-mail :


Last modified January 5th 2011