Famous Nowra artist Leonard Long dies at 102

He died early Sunday morning in a Melbourne hospital.

A prolific oils landscape artist, he will be remembered for his generosity in donating paintings (to many different organisations, to help raise funds) and for his help to many young artists.

Although he left Nowra in 1980 to live in Melbourne with his daughter and son-in-law, he is widely regarded as one of Shoalhaven’s most successful artists and favourite sons.

Renowned worldwide, an officer of the Order of Australia (1993) and a genuine icon of the Australian art community, Mr Long had work represented worldwide including in the HRH The Queen Mother's Collection and The Vatican Collection Rome.

He also had works in The Art Gallery of NSW, The Howard Hinton Collection Bunbury WA, The National Gallery Kuala Lumpur, The Rockhampton Art Gallery Qld, The Dunedin Art Gallery NZ, The Benalla Art Gallery Vic, The Broken Hill Art Gallery NSW and in numerous commercial and private collections around the world.

Jacqui Gilmore, whose brother Mike Thorne married Mr Long’s daughter Carmel, said he was a special man.

“Leonard sponsored myself, my then husband Mike and our daughter Wendi (Hobbs) to come to Australia 49 years ago,” she said.

“He was a lovely man and was always very good to us.”

Then South Coast Register journalist Jeff Stephenson caught up with Mr Long in May 2011 when at 100 he was preparing for his last solo exhibition and said he had no plans of slowing down.

Mr Long said he had fond memories of the district and most particularly the Shoalhaven River.

The river stands out as one of his finest artistic achievements.

He and fellow artist John Downton followed the river from where it rises “way up the other side of Braidwood”.

“The two of us followed the river right through the gorges and down to the sea,” he recalled with the clarity of someone many years his junior.

“We did lots of drawings and from that we produced 47 paintings for an exhibition in Nowra.

“All of them sold.”

It was one of the first exhibitions he had held and he and Mr Downton then embarked on an Australia-wide crusade painting as many Australian landscapes as possible.

“We travelled on and off for 15 years in a campervan,” Mr Long said.

“It was a great experience – we had a fantastic time and we produced some wonderful work.”

Mr Long was born the son of a baker in 1911 – on what was to become Anzac Day.

He was raised in Mittagong and showed an early aptitude for drawing.

He painted his first painting at 16 and started his working life as a watchmaker in Bowral.

“My mother saw an advertisement for an apprentice watchmaker with an artistic temperament,” Mr Long said.

“As soon as she saw it she said, ‘Leonard, this is for you’.

“So I started working with the watchmaker, WE Burchell, and he painted and he was quite good and he encouraged me to continue to draw and paint.

“It was a wonderful time.”

Mr Long moved to Nowra for work and as a young man was also a prominent long-distance cyclist as evidenced by his trips from Nowra back to Mittagong – 62 kilometres – to see his sweetheart, Mary, whom he later married.

During his career he held many successful solo exhibitions throughout Australia and travelled extensively.

The American millionaire John Galvin sponsored his first overseas trip and the experience made a lasting impression on the artist.

He was one of the first artists to paint the less accessible regions of Tasmania, being flown in by light aircraft.

Funeral arrangements for Mr Long, which will be staged in Melbourne, are yet to be announced.

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