Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Arnold St Claire

During the 1960s, Arnold St Claire lived in Campbelltown with his wife Claire. A talented artist, he was a finalist in the 1965 Sulman Prize, and a finalist in the 1966 Archibald Prize. It was during this period that Arnold was also a regular cartoonist for the Campbelltown Ingleburn News.
A real character, Arnold held an art exhibition in a butchers shop in 1966, with 35 paintings on show. He also painted murals on the walls of the Railway Hotel in Queen Street.
Gordon Fetterplace remembered Arnold pulling off the "most successful hoax in Campbelltown history". The artist had negotiated with Fontainebleux (the former sister city of Campbelltown), for a prestigious local exhibition of French art. Gordon recalled dropping in to see Arnold a few nights before the exhibition to find him hard at work painting a number of boat and wharf scenes. Unfortunately the art had failed to arrive from France, so Arnold was improvising. The big night was a huge turnout, with art critics and official visitors, all looking at Arnold's paintings!
During the early seventies, Arnold completed a 3 tonne, 7 metre high statue of a rearing horse for  his friend Tommy Sewell, Hawkesbury businessman and horse trainer. The statue stood in the forecourt of Tommy's Tourmaline Hotel, named after Tommy's sprinter King Tourmaline. Tommy Sewell said of Arnold "he was a wonderful man - never before or since have i ever met a character like him".
Sadly, Arnold suffered from mental illness and alcoholism, and during one of his stints in hospital, he painted murals on the walls of the Male Admission Ward building, part of the Parramatta Psychiatric Centre Complex.

Mural at Parramatta, Photo Dr Terry Smith 1985

Mural at Parramatta, Photo Dr Terry Smith 1985
Arnold died on the 24th May 1974 in Hornsby Hospital of pneumonia following 8 days of the now infamous and discredited "Deep Sleep Therapy" administered at the Chelmsford Private Hospital.
A recent interviewee said of Arnold "He was one of our first known resident artists. A fantastic gifted man".

Written by Claire Lynch

Campbelltown Clippings - Jeff McGill
Local Studies Pamphlet Files
Robyn Watson Oral History


  1. Credit for photographs is incorrect should be Dr. Terry Smith

  2. Many thanks June - my mistake. Thanks for your sharp eyes.

  3. I am sure i have 4 of his paintings he did for me back in 1970 all are aborigonial portraits all signed by him. does anyone have copy of his signature that i can check against. Mr Drew

  4. Sorry for the late reply. We don't, but you could try the Campbelltown Arts Centre.