Biography

Birth date: 31 December 1878
Birth place: New Zealand: South Island, Otago, Dunedin
Death date: 03 January 1951
Death place: Australia: Victoria, Melbourne
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

During the First World War Harold Septimus Power captured some of the last significant horse battles to take place in modern warfare in the paintings he created for the Australian War Memorial.

When he was young, his family immigrated to Australia and settled in Melbourne. Power's father was a hatter by trade but also a painter and art teacher; however, despite his son's obvious artistic ability and interest, he strongly discouraged him from pursuing a career as a professional artist.

At the age of 14, Power ran away from home to pursue a career as an artist. He developed a passion for drawing animals, especially horses, and found jobs that involved contact with animals. While working for a carriage painter, he painted studies of animal heads on butcher's delivery vans, and later on he worked as a veterinarian's assistant.

In 1900 Power moved to Adelaide where he worked as a political cartoonist with the Register, and painted in the Adelaide hills with Hans Heysen. In 1903 Power was the first Australian artist to receive a commission from the National Gallery of South Australia. In 1905 he travelled to Europe to study at the Academe Julian in Paris.

Power eventually moved to London, where he was able to indulge his passion for animal painting with commissions from wealthy English patrons, and he regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy throughout his career.

In 1917, Power was appointed an official war artist with the rank of honorary lieutenant and attached to the 1st Division Australian Imperial Force (AIF). He worked in France from September to December. He was commissioned for a second time from August 1918 to March 1920, and then contracted on commissions for the Australian War Records Section until 1938.

A number of Power's commissions were for large paintings depicting significant campaigns of the Australian Light Horse during the First World War, including Leaders of the Australian Light Horse in Palestine, 1918 and Ziza. In 1922 the Melbourne Public Library commissioned a large mural depicting the Middle Eastern Theatre and the Western Front. In 1927 the Commonwealth selected Power to depict the opening of Parliament in the new Commonwealth building in Canberra. The painting, Opening of Federal Parliament at Canberra, 9 May 1927, is now held in the Parliament House Art Collection.

Rolls and Awards

Collection Items

Art

In the horse lines

Three men from the 1st AIF near a tent with sacks of chaff, with several horses under thatched-roof shelters in background. H S Power was an official war artist attached to 1st Division AIF from 4 September 1917 to 31 March 1920. He was in France between September and December 1917 and again in...

ART03305

Studies on the field of battle

Two soldiers in full uniform, one lying on his stomach, the other seated, overlooking the battlefield. This work is listed as '487 Studies on the field of battle' in a list of sketches by official artists at present at Australia House, London. The two soldiers appear tense and alert. H S Power was...

ART03306

Battery in action

Depicts four men from the 1st Division Artillery gun crew with an 18 pounder gun in action on the Western Front in France. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young his family immigrated to Australia and settled in Melbourne. At the age of 14, Power ran away from home to...

ART03308

In the horse lines

Depicts the 1st Division Artillery horses tethered to rails near shelters. The left of the image has feed bags hanging from rails. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young his family immigrated to Australia and settled in Melbourne. At the age of 14, Power ran away from...

ART03311

Veterinary surgeon

Power depicts three officers surrounding a lame horse. One is a vet who is examining the horse's left rear leg or hoof, the other two are looking on, one standing at the horse's head. The vet is from the Australian Army Veterinary Corps, the others from the 1st Australian Division AIF. Power was...

ART03312

Studies on the field of battle

Two unidentified soldiers in full marching order, one seated, other walking away from viewer, background very hazy from smoke or dust; Western Front, France

ART03321

Some story. A canteen

Depicts a group of soldiers seated around a table in a canteen at the front. Another soldier is standing before them telling a story.

ART03326

Camp life in Flanders

Depicts a group of soldiers relaxing and resting, near two small tents pitched between trees, in Flanders. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young his family immigrated to Australia and settled in Melbourne. At the age of 14, Power ran away from home to pursue a career as...

ART03331

Canteen: some story: army canteen behind the lines in France

A group of soldiers sitting in an army canteen listening to a story told by a soldier just returned from leave in England, referred to as 'Blighty'. The central figure telling the story is in full uniform, wearing his tin helmet with his rifle slung over his left shoulder.

ART03337

Damascus Incident

Depicts the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade that was ordered to cross the gorge and cut the only other available escape route for the Turkish troops from Damascus, the road to Homs. The direct route was so rough, however, the Australian commander decided to dash through Damascus itself to reach...

ART03647

The incident for which Lieutenant F.H. McNamara was awarded the VC

Lieutenant F H McNamara and Captain D W Rutherford were returning from an aerial bombing near Gaza, 1917 when Captain Rutherford was forced down. Although wounded and under heavy rifle fire from the Turkish Cavalry, Lieutenant McNamara landed to rescue Captain Rutherford. Upon attempting to take...

ART08007

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Williams

Lieutenant Colonel Richard, DSO, OBE, Commanding Bde RFC; campaign Australian Flying Corps, No. 1 Squadron, 40th Wing, Brigade. H Septimus Power was an official war artist attached to 1st Division AIF from 4 September 1917 to 31 March 920. He was in France between September and December 1917 and in...

ART08008

Lieutenant General Sir Herbert Cox

Major General Sir Herbert Vaughan Cox, KCB, KCMG, CSI, was a regular officer of the Indian Army and commanded the 29th Indian Brigade at Gallipoli, 1915. During the re-organisation of the Australian Imperial Force in Egypt after the Gallipoli campaign, he was appointed to command the newly-formed...

ART08009

Camel Corps at Magdhaba

Depicts the Camel Corp 'Cameliers' at the point where they were dismounting to advance on foot at Magdhaba. The Imperial Camel Corps Brigade was raised from the Australian, New Zealand and British Armies; of its four Battalions, two and a half were Australian. On 23 December 1916, in company with...

ART09230

Leaders of the Australian Light Horse in Palestine, 1918

Jordan Valley; 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Australian Light Horse Brigades; a group of ten officers, all mounted, in a desert landscape, l-r: Brigadier General George Macleay Macarthur-Onslow, DSO, 5 ALH Bde; Brigadier General William Grant, DSO, 4 ALH Bde; Lieutenant Colonel John Gilbert Browne,...

ART09557

Soldier's head

Portrait of an unidentified soldier, wearing tin (protective) helmet, tunic and bandolier across chest, 'A' badge (Anzac) on colour patch.

ART50024

Transport Horses

Depicts five horses used by the 1st Australian Imperial Force, 1st Australian Division Artillery, standing under temporary wooden shelters in a war-torn landscape. This is one of 5 works lent to the Australian Government on long term loan for an exhibition at Australia House in London. H.Septimus...

ART92143

Saving the guns at Robecq

Batteries of 12th Australian Field Artillery Brigade withdrawing at the gallop in face of approaching German troops at Calonne; German offensive March-April 1918, Battle of the Lys, Western Front.

ART03332

Ziza

Depicts an unusual event that occurred on 28 September 1918. After the capture of Amman on the 25 September, the 5th Light Horse Brigade was ordered south along the Hejaz railway to intercept a Turkish force near Ziza, about 5,000 strong, which was moving north from Maan in an attempt to escape to...

ART12673

Shell pack horses in the mud

Two horses from the 1st Australian Division Ordnance units, one led, one ridden, struggling through mud, each horse carrying eight shells for 18 pounder field guns, shells in canvas holders at Zonnebeke in Belgium. Zonnebeke in Belgium was the scene of the most ferocious fighting of the First World...

ART03307

Peelers' paradise

Depicts three soldiers from the 1st Australian Division of the AIF sitting near the front of a thatch-roofed house peeling vegetables, the camp kitchen is in background. This is during the Third Battle of Ypres on the Western Front. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young...

ART03309

Reserves in the trenches

Soldiers waiting in the trenches at Passchendaele in Belgium. Although their faces are mostly averted, their attitudes betray the men's anxiety as they wait in a reserve trench to be called into battle at Passchendaele. The Battle of Passchendaele was also known as the Third Battle of Ypres. The...

ART03310

Evacuation of wounded horses in the battle line

Depicts a Royal Army Veterinary Corps horse ambulance Mark II, drawn by two horses, being loaded with two horses wearing rugs, the second horse is reluctant to enter the ambulance and is being pushed by three soldiers. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young his family...

ART03313

Horse artillery lines

Power shows three lines of horse shelters, with a group of horses standing under the foreground shelter. A single horse outside the shelter is being attended by a lighthorseman at right mid-ground. Several nosebags hang on the end of the posts. The horses are part of the 1st Australian Imperial...

ART03314

Heavy going in Flanders mud

Depicts the 1st Australian Division Artillery battery, consisting of six horses (three ridden, three led), pulling half limber wagon and 18-pounder gun through the mud at Flanders during the Third Battle. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young his family immigrated to...

ART03315

Shell pack horses at a dump

Depicts two horses loaded with eight 18-pounder shells, carried in canvas shell carriers, standing at an ammunition dump, with ammunition on the ground in front of them. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young his family immigrated to Australia and settled in Melbourne. At...

ART03316

Pack horses

Depicts two horses loaded with eight 18-pounder shells, carried in canvas shell carriers. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young his family immigrated to Australia and settled in Melbourne. At the age of 14, Power ran away from home to pursue a career as an artist. He...

ART03317

Camp stories

Depicts a group of Australian soldiers talking and telling camp stories in front of a tent at an encampment in France. Around them is their personal military equipment, including helmuts, swags and tin mugs. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young his family immigrated to...

ART03319

Mess parade

Power depicts a group of soldiers standing near a thatched cookhouse, holding their plates waiting for food, near Ypres in France during the First World War. The makeshift cookhouse dominates the centre background, with tents on either side and a tree in the left background. The soldier second from...

ART03320

Passing through a ruined village

Power shows the tail end of a body of troops marching past a ruined church, followed by the travelling field cooker. The cooker is drawn by two horses with a mounted driver. The limber carries rations; the rear limber has the stove and four boiler sections.The background contains ruins of a church...

ART03322

Cook house

Depicts the cook house for the 1st Division Train, situated in a wrecked building, with a tent at the left. Three soldiers are sitting near a thatched house peeling vegetables, with the camp kitchen area in the background. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young his...

ART03323

Horse artillery lines

Depicts the temporary shelters for the 1st Division Artillery horses. The horses are under improvised shelters with nosebags hanging on rails. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young his family immigrated to Australia and settled in Melbourne. At the age of 14, Power ran...

ART03324

Camp scenes

Depicts the encampment of the 1st Australian Division Artillery, 2nd Battery. The view is of the camp with tents and horse lines amid the trees. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young his family immigrated to Australia and settled in Melbourne. At the age of 14, Power ran...

ART03325

Battle of Menin Road

Power shows troops in a trench moving forward into battle zone during the Battle of Menin Road, Third Ypres, Western Front, 1917 on 20 September 1917. Explosions of gunfire can be seen in the background and two aircraft are seen overhead. It shows the intensity of the British artillery shelling....

ART03327

War

Power has depicted the 1st Australian Division Artillery battery crossing open ground, shells exploding nearby. The horses are wearing standard 1912 harness, with improvised shadow rolls on bridles. This was during the Third Batle of Ypres at Passchendaele. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in...

ART03328

Going into action

Depicts the 1st Australian Division Artillery battery moving into position through mud, with mules and horses pulling an 18-pounder gun and half limber wagon, and two soldiers on foot wearing cape groundsheets to guard against the wet. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was...

ART03329

First Australian Division Artillery going into the 3rd Battle of Ypres

Features the 1st Australian Division Artillery during the Third Battle of Ypres on the Western Front. 18-pounder guns are pictured being brought forward by teams of six horses, other guns already in position and firing, horses are wearing standard 1912 pattern harness.

ART03330

Bringing up the guns

Power depicts a team of six horses, a rider on one of each pair, struggling through the mud pulling the gun carriage with an 18 pounder gun. Two soldiers on foot are also pulling the heavy carriage. From the 1st Australian Imperial Force, 101st Australian Battery, they are taking part in the Third...

ART03334

Stretcher bearers

Australian stretcher bearers with casualty on stretcher preparing to leave the battlefield, and another soldier attending to a second casualty. In performing their work, stretcher-bearers were regularly exposed to great danger as depicted in this work. Shells are bursting close to where they are...

ART03645

Admiral Sir George Patey

Admiral Sir George Edwin Patey, KCMG, KCVO, was the first Commander of Australian Fleet, from his arrival in 1913 until 1915. In his flagship, the battle-cruiser HMAS Australia, he was in charge of naval operations during the seizure of German New Guinea by the hurriedly-raised Australian Navy and...

ART09097

The gunners, France

Depicts four artillerymen on a battlefield working an 18 pounder gun while another figure, standing, looks through binoculars behind them. The action is taking place at the Third Battle of Ypres in Passchendaele. Bombs are exploding all around and two aircraft can be seen in the sky. The 18...

ART09100

First Australian artillery going into the 3rd Battle of Ypres

This work shows a team of six horses, three mounted and three led, struggling through thick mud pulling a heavy 18 pounder gun on the limber. Six other soldiers on foot are helping to haul the gun, all moving away from the viewer. Septimus Power has captured the dash, the urgency, the immediacy of...

ART19842

Shell pack horses

Depicts a soldier of the 1st Australian Imperial Force, 2nd Division Train in uniform with a helmet, mounted on a horse in a war-torn landscape. To the left of him is another horse. The two horses are each loaded with 8 18-pounder shells carried in canvas shell carriers. One of the horses is being...

ART92142

Harness Cleaning

Depicts a group of Australian soldiers from the 1st Australian Imperial Force, 1st Australian Division, cleaning horse harness items near a temporary wooden shelter. Under the shelter are several horses. The soldiers are depicted in uniform with their sleeves rolled up, wearing hats as they clean...

ART92144

A shell swept road

Depicts a team of six horses from the 1st Australian Imperial Force, 1st Australian Division Artillery pulling an 18-pounder gun with shell bursts nearby and ruined war-damaged buildings and landscape in the background. The horses are wearing standard 1912 pattern harnesses. This is one of 5 works...

ART92145

A Field Kitchen

Depicts three soldiers wearing tin (protective) helmets and waterproof capes attending a field kitchen (travelling field cooker) in a wet, war-damaged landscape. With the field kitchen, the forepart or limber carries rations, fuel and equipment, while the body or rear limber has a stove with four...

ART92146

Bringing up the ammunition, Flanders, Autumn 1917

Australian soldiers with teams of six horses pulling linked half limbers loaded with boxes of machine gun ammunition. The horses are struggling through the mud as they cross a small river.

ART03333

8th August 1918

Somme area; battlefield; 3rd Australian Division, 4th Australian Division; infantry, supported by horse drawn artillery and two British Mark IV male tanks, moving towards front line - this depicts part of the allied offensive of 8 August 1918, the day that became known to the Germans as 'der...

ART12208

Horse lines on the Somme

Power depicts a large number of horses being prepared for battle in the Somme area in France. He was a skilled draughtsman of horses as seen in this work.

ART03335

Albert Cathedral

Depicts the ruins of Albert Cathedral. Albert was central to the First Battle of the Somme. During the war, the statue of Mary on top of the church was hit by a shell and was put in a horizontal position and was left hanging precariously. The Germans claimed that whoever made the statue fall from...

ART03318

Australian Artillery going into action at Harbonnieres

Depicts a team of horses with the Australian 1st Division Artillery pulling 18 pounder guns up a hill on a road near Harbonnieres on the Western Front and soldiers on horseback riding into action. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young his family immigrated to Australia...

ART03336

German observaton post, Mont St Quentin

Depicts a German observation post, concrete with slit opening, on Mont St Quentin. Mont St Quentin stood out in the surrounding country, making it a perfect observation point and a vital strategic area to control. This area was key to the German defence of the Somme line. As it was such an...

ART03646

Corbie Abbey

Depicts the ruins of Corbie Abbey church and the village buildings of Corbie, with rubble everywhere. Power was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1877. When he was young his family immigrated to Australia and settled in Melbourne. At the age of 14, Power ran away from home to pursue a career as an...

ART03648

Timeline

Date of birth 1878-12-31
Date of death 1951-01-03