Jesse Jewhurst Hilder was born on July 23, 1881 in Toowoomba, the eighth child of Henry Hilder, an engine driver from Sussex, and Elizabeth Hilder who was born in India. The family lived in a small weatherboard railway cottage in Mort Street owned by local merchant, Thomas Sutcliffe Mort.

J.J. Hilder attended the Toowoomba North State School until the family moved to Brisbane in 1890. In Brisbane, he continued his education at Fortitude Valley State School and then won a three year scholarship to Brisbane Grammar School.

In 1898, Hilder commenced work at the Brisbane branch of the Bank of New South Wales. In 1901, he was transferred to Goulburn, NSW, then to Bega a year later and then in 1904 to Waverley. It was during these years that the symptoms of his pulmonary illness first appeared.

While at Waverley he was advised to show his water-colours to Julian Ashton and as a result he began to study at Ashton’s late afternoon classes. His paintings at this time were signed as “Anthony Hood” as he felt the bank may disapprove of his artistic interests.

In March 1906 Hilder moved to Sydney and became very ill with tuberculosis and after some time entered the Queen Victoria Home for Consumptives at Wentworth Falls. His paintings at this point were becoming increasingly popular and he was hailed by Streeton as a genius.

His marriage to Phyllis Meadmore on 28th April, 1909 was a turning point in Hilder’s life. With his wife’s encouragement, he began his new profession of full-time artist first based at Lawson in the Blue Mountains, then Parramatta, where their first son was born.

By the end of 1909 sales from his paintings totalled 200 pounds which was used to purchase a pony and trap to extend the range of his sketching sites. But by 1911, with sales of his works falling-off and bills accumulating, Hilder had less than 2 pounds to his name.

It was in this year on 27th March that his second son was born. Between bouts of illness, Hilder continued his work and his paintings gradually increased in value. The family moved to Ryde, where they stayed until July 1912, then finally to “Inglewood”, near Hornsby.

On the 10 April, 1916, J.J. Hilder died from pulmonary tuberculosis and was buried in the Rookwood cemetery.

Sources

Hilder, J.J. - “The art of J.J. Hilder” 1918
Hilder, Brett – “The heritage of J.J. Hilder” 1966
LH files – LH/Hilder, J.J. “Australian Dictionary of Biography” Vol 9, pp 292-293. 1983.