The Founders

Iris Philippi

Iris PhillipiIris Phillippi painting
Iris Philippi
Born 1918

Foundation Member
Patron Life Member
Co-founder of Heidelberg District Artists Society Inc (today known as the “Heidelberg Artists Society” or HAS)

Iris was born 9th August 1918 near the sea at Albert Park and grew up during the depression years. She loved drawing with pencils or pastels and also studied the violin, starting at 10 years of age. Iris left school at fourteen and started work, and for a few months enrolled at the National Gallery, Swanston Street to learn sketching, plaster casts with charcoal. Iris could not manage both drawing and the music, and music won the day.

Marrying in 1935 and starting a family made it difficult for Iris to continue with studies. In 1958 the family bought a hotel at Rosedale, a small town in Gippsland, and while shopping in Sale one day she came across a group of ladies having an art exhibition in the main street. For about 18 months she had been doing an art course by correspondence, not painting but pen and ink work, so she was very interested to talk with these ladies. Their leader was Sale artist L. Luxford and Iris was invited to join them and try out with paints and brushes. So began her love affair with painting which continues to this day. Iris remained with the Sale group until returning to Melbourne in 1962.

Iris missed painting with friends so much that she thought if an advertisement was placed in the local paper, she might find a few friends who would be interested in going out to paint. After trying unsuccessfully for several months to make contact with other artists interested in forming a painting group, Iris placed an advertisement in the local “Heidelberger” in June 1964. The advertisement read, “Artists – are you interested in forming a local painting group, beginners welcome, no charges, ring 45-0878”. The ad ran for two weeks and the response was amazing. She called a meeting at her home. As a result of the advert, approximately 28 people met at the Philippi home and were very interested in the concept. The Club started off with members painting at Iris’ home or going out painting when weather permitted. So started the Saturday painting with a cavalcade of cars going out every week, a very exciting time.

One person exhibitions have been held by Iris at Druin in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983 and Altona 1983.

For the first 12 to 18 months the Club existed without a name or any officials. However, it was found necessary to form a proper Club and the “Heidelberg Art Group” was officially formed with the appropriate committee. Iris was the President and Secretary of the first committee formed and served in that capacity and on the committee for some years. Iris is the founder and a Life Member of the Society.

It has been through the diligence of Iris in keeping diary notes of the early part of the Society’s activities that the production of this history has been possible.

Ernest Salter
Ernst Salter

1896 – 1974

Foundation Member
Life Member
Artist, Teacher,
Co-Founder of Heidelberg District Artists Society

Ernest Salter was born in London before the turn of the century. His art ability was notably demonstrated in two forms during his life. As a teenager he learned the trade of ladies shoe design and handbag making. He also won a scholarship to the Tate Gallery to study fine art. He learned much there, especially by painting from the Old Masters.

The First World War interrupted his studies, but even during the three years he spent in the terrible trenches in France, receiving a decoration for bravery. It is told that he sketched and drew on whatever he could find, including the tough bully beef biscuits they were given to eat. Most of the work was lost at this time.

After the war in 1925 Ernest and his newly-arrived English bride migrated to Australia, and they made their home in Heidelberg. Ern alighted from the train at Heidelberg and walked down Burgundy Street. He liked the quiet, sleepy atmosphere and the view across the Yarra Valley that so entranced the Heidelberg School of painters years before. He purchased 190 Cape Street where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1928 he started his own business designing and making ladies shoes and furthering his art career by studying at the National Gallery under George Bell and Max Meldrum. Later he became a member and committee member of the Victorian Artists Society. By 1945 he was ready to hold his first one-man exhibition. It is interesting to note the reviews in “The Age” and the “Herald” at that time. His art teacher, George Bell, commented on one of the paintings in the exhibition title “Autumn Glory”, which he “has succeeded in rendering a rich effect”. The unnamed “Herald” critic observed that Mr Salter can be classified as an “Australian Impressionist” who “reveals an ability which can no doubt be developed over the years”. How right these comments have proven to be over the years that have now passed. He is represented in many private collections, both in Australia and overseas, including that of the Rt. Hon. J.H. Scullin, a former Prime Minister.

Although his shoemaking and designing business was successful by the late 1950’s, Art prevailed and Ernest Salter became a full time painter. Now he could give full expression to his paintings. He also found that he yearned to join other artists and pass on his great wealth of knowledge and ability to younger artists. The opportunity came in 1968, and together with another local artist, Mrs Iris Philippi, he helped form the Heidelberg District Artists Society.

To all who desired, he freely made available his extensive knowledge of art and painting. Today the Society honours his memory annually with an award to his name. The Ernest Salter Award is eagerly sought by the members of the Society he helped to form and develop.

Everyone who knew Ernest Salter tells of the quiet distinguished Englishman, who made his home in Australia, lived and painted in Heidelberg and continued the already established quality of art by which the area is known. The eye disease glaucoma hampered him in the last years of his life, but he continued to paint and produced many of his best works at this time.

He has left a rich legacy of paintings – mostly land and seascapes, with an occasional still life study. His principle medium was oils, but he also worked with pastels and watercolours. The Heidelberg District Artists Society Inc. honours his memory with an annual competition called the “Ernest Salter Award”.

The Ernest Salter Award

The Ernest Salter Award is held annually for all eligible members and the painting is passed to the winning member to display in their home for twelve months until the next presentation.