A Large Oil Painting of a Tasmanian Landcape Discovered in the Attic of an Abbey in South-West France

Whilst exploring a Romanesque Abbey in Chancelade, South-West France in 2017, by chance I discovered a large oil painting abandoned amongst the dust, flaking walls and cobwebs of a rickety Augustinian attic. A biblical scene, it seemed to not ever have been hung safely on the wall near where it rested, or had perhaps fallen and been left to sit where it lay. Whatever the case, it seemed both incongruous and incredible that such an artwork had been deemed of such little importance and had been left sitting to moulder and decay. As the discarded painting’s mood, tones and darkening varnishes were reminiscent of Tasmanian colonial landscapes I’d studied as a student in Launceston, I found myself envisaging a familiar Tasmanian landscape composition sitting afresh within its European historical frame. A Deddington scene sprang to mind, one including a much humbler ‘House of God’ – one previously sketched, painted and visited many times over decades with colleagues and friends: one of many scenes from my home state that ‘travels’ with me, shaping my view of unfamiliar environments and vistas, and framing my personal vision in unexpected places and ways.

Robert Habel