In the 1950s a young Adelaide artist named George Matthews spent many hours with fellow artist drawing garden labourers in the extensive market gardens which flourished Campbelltown near the Adelaide foothills in at that time.
At first using bicycles for transport, George and his friends would travel with their gear to the market gardens on Saturday afternoons, set themselves up along the dirt roadsides, drawing and painting outdoors, directly from life. The subjects of these artworks were labourers who toiled throughout the seasons, planting, weeding and packing harvests of carrots, onions and potatos. Horses and ploughs, scythes, hoes and bare hands were the tools used to make their living.
These drawings by George Matthews were exhibited in a solo retrospective exhibition “A Working Life” which was held in February 207 in the Campbelltown Library Gallery space. The majority of the works were executed in cray-pas ( a square formed wax-crayon between a crayon and an oil pastel in consistency) on brown paper which were his preferred medium at that time. The Campbelltown Library purchased 10 of George’s paintings for their archives.
George Matthews was born in Kent Town in Adelaide, was the second youngest of five children. He grew up during the lean years of the Great Depression, attended schools in Payneham, Sturt Street and Westbourne Park and left school at the age of thirteen.
As a teenager, he worked firstly as a butcher’s delivery boy riding a draught horse, then a storeman, metal worker and builder’s labourer in various Adelaide firms before joining the Royal Australian Navy as a Seaman.
After the second World War, George trained as an artist at the SA School of Art, then worked in the South Australian Museum, The Wallace Collection (London) and the Educational Technology Centre in Adelaide. He continued as a graphic designer and artist throughout his working life. His artistic work includes ceramics and small scale sculpture as well as pencil and crayon drawings of figures and domestic and zoo animals drawn from life.
George and his wife Lois (nee Drechsler) and their three children lived in Payneham, Cherryville, Athelstone and St Morris. George is now a resident of the Campbell Wing at NECH.