John was born in Belgium in the coal-mining town of Marcinelle (known as the Black Country) in 1945. He migrated to Australia in 1969 “to have a look”, fell in love with the place and its people and 38 years later has not lost his love and passion for his adopted country.
Although, since childhood, painting (art in general) was going to be his calling… it’s only after schooling, a short dreaming period of becoming a crop dusting pilot and achieving a career in finance with IAC, that in 1976 he became a full time artist with the support of his wife Frances.
As an artist not born in Australia he feels he saw and still sees the Australian environment with a fresh eye. The charm of nostalgic 19th century settings of historic towns has won John international accolades. His work is reproduced as cards, prints, limited edition prints, calendars and books. His paintings were among the first published by Art Nouveau during its domination of fine art publishing in the late 80’s. One of his prints was second on the national list of all time best sellers. This achievement has helped his reputation to grow as one of Australia’s well sought after artists. John wonders sometimes if it is his lack of blood ties to Australia that drives him to study his adopted country’s colonial roots. “Neither my wife Frances (English born) nor I have relatives in Australia; our families are still in Europe”, John explains. “I sometimes think that I am trying to compensate for that absence by including my love of Australia history, maybe I’m subconsciously creating my own past”. When John paints a town he paints it as a portrait painter would paint his subject. He accurately sketches every building in the street before he starts his final work
He says, “When I look down from the top of a hill on a village, I know every house in the town. Sometimes I remove the bitumen or take a little liberty with the time of day or season but the structure of the scenes is always true to life”. John’s works hang in private, corporate and public collections throughout the world. His polo scenes have proved popular with the members of the Royal family, including Prince Charles. Kerry Packer was another collector of his work. Three years ago John suffered the debilitating Heart disease Cardiomyopathy, which changed his life totally. He started a rigorous program of diet and light exercise and this regime brought him back from the brink. As most of you know the only cure for this disease is a heart transplant and at Johns age the waiting list is long. I am happy to say John’s slower pace to life has brought his art into, what I believe, the best period of his career,
on August 13 John received richly deserved recognition when the Australian Institute of History and Arts Awarded Him a Fellowship. The award said “in recognition of his many years of work in the field of Traditional Australian Art and as a leader in this chosen subject’ . It also said “future generations of Australians will forever be appreciative of John Vander’s Work which has greatly enriched the Archives of our Country”
John was one of the first artists invited to join the “TOP TEN” group in the early days and this is his fifth inclusion in the Kevin Hill’s “TOP TEN” book.