Bill Henson (Australian, b.1955) is one of Australia’s most notable leaders in Contemporary photography. Born in Melbourne in 1955, Henson studied visual arts and design with Louis Athol Shmith at Prahran College of Advanced Education. Other notable influences on his work include the famous Melbourne painter and his long-term partner Louise Hearman, and the award-winning film director Paul Cox. Although Henson did not complete his degree, Shmith showed his work to the photography curator at the National Gallery of Victoria, which led to Henson’s first solo exhibition in 1975. Since his first exhibition, the artist has shown his work in Australia and many other countries around the world. Some of his most notable venues include the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Venice Biennale. Common themes that can be seen in Henson’s work include chiaroscuro (stark light to dark tonal contrasts), bokeh (blurry imagery), and a reflection of a strong sense of musicality.

One of Henson’s most famous projects, known as the Paris Opera Project, was created in 1991 to give viewers a sense of listening to music. The project was produced in an attempt to generate images designed to show the feelings stirred by music.

More recently, Henson has shifted his focus to both urban and rural landscapes. His works portray a sort of romanticism with dark and abandoned fringes of the city that often include lone figures tormented by longing and sadness. Henson’s project entitled 3 Decades of Photography captures three decades of his work, and is meant to demonstrate that a series is never over, but is instead only a work in progress.

Timeline

1955
Born in Melbourne, Australia

Exhibitions

2012
Bill Henson: early work from the Monash Gallery of Art collection, travelling exhibition: Broken Hill Art Gallery, Broken Hill, NSW, Wangaratta Exhibitions Gallery, Wangaratta, VIC (Solo)
2011
Bill Henson: early work from the Monash Gallery of Art collection, travelling exhibition:Grafton Regional Gallery, Grafton, NSW, Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery, Swan Hill, VIC, Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide, SA (Solo)
2010
Bill Henson: early work from the Monash Gallery of Art collection, travelling exhibition: Albury Art Gallery, Albury, NSW, Burrinja Gallery, Upwey, VIC, Dubbo Regional Gallery, Dubbo, NSW (Solo)
2010
Bill Henson, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (Solo)
2010
Zurich Film Festival Exhibition, Christophe Guye Galerie, Zurich, Switzerland
2008
Teen City, Musee de l'Elysee, Lausanne, Switzerland, curated by Nathalie Herschdorfer
2008
People and Places: Selections from the Allen Thomas Jr. Photography Collection, SECCA (Southeastern Centre for Contemporary Art), North Carolina
2008
Supercharged: the car in contemporary culture, IMA touring show - Logan Art Gallery, Redcliffe Art Gallery
2008
Bill Henson, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (Solo)
2008
Bill Henson, Robert Miller Gallery, New York (Solo)
2007
Bill Henson, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (Solo)
2007
DeOverkant/Downunder, Den Haag Sculpture 2007, Netherlands
2007
Intimacy, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, The University of New South Wales, College of Fine Arts, Sydney
2007
Supercharged: the car in contemporary culture, IMA touring show - 24Hr Art, Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, Pinnacles Gallery
2007
Strange Cargo: Contemporary art as a state of encounter, Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery, Orange Regional Gallery, Wagga Wagga Art Gallery and Tweed River Regional Gallery
2006
Supercharged: the car in contemporary culture, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
2006
Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England
2006
Bill Henson, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne (Solo)
2006
Bill Henson, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (Solo)
2006
Bill Henson, Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago (Solo)
2006
Bill Henson, Robert Miller Gallery, New York, USA (Solo)
2006
Black & Blue, Robert Miller Gallery, New York, USA
2006
The Year in Art, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney
2005
Perception, The Daryl Hewson Photographic Collection, Queensland Centre for Photography, Bulimba, QLD, Australia
2005
The Subjective Figure, Robert Miller Gallery, New York
2005
C'town Bling, curator Anne Loxley, Campbelltown Arts Centre, NSW, Australia
2005
10/21 - VCA at the Venice Biennale, Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia
2005
The Children's Hour, Museum of New Art, Detroit, USA
2005
Almost, Robert Miller Gallery, New York, USA
2005
Bill Henson: 2003-2004 Newcastle Region Art Gallery Acquisitions, Newcastle Regional Art Gallery, Newcastle. (Solo)
2005
Bill Henson: Three Decades of Photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (Solo)
2004
Presence 3: Bill Henson, The Speed Art Museum, Kentucky, USA (Solo)
2004
Bill Henson, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, Australia (Solo)
2004
Bill Henson, Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago (Solo)
2004
Bill Henson, Robert Miller Gallery, New York, USA (Solo)
2004
Auto Fetish: The Mechanics of Desire, curated by Nick Mitzevich, Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle, New South Wales
2004
Penumbra: Images of Light and Darkness, McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park, Langwarrin, Victoria
2004
Night Vision, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney
2004
Written with Darkness, UTS Gallery, University of Technology, Sydney
2004
The Plot Thickens: Narratives in Australian Art, A Heide Museum of Modern Art Travelling Art Exhibition, Melbourne
2004
Satellite cities and tabloid life, MUMA Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne Presence, Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky (through to March 2005)
2004
2004 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Contemporary Photo-media, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia
2003
Bill Henson, Lux et Nox, book launch, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, Australia (Solo)
2003
Bill Henson, Lux et Nox, book launch, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia (Solo)
2003
Bill Henson, Centro de Fotografia, University of Salamanca, Spain (Solo)
2003
Strangers: The First ICP Triennial of Photography and Video, International Center of Photography, New York
2003
MCA Unpacked II, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
2003
Stellar, Centre of Contemporary Photography Fundraising Auction, Centre of Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
2003
Through their lens, Gosford Regional Gallery, Gosford
2003
Child in Time, Gemeente Museum Helmond, Helmond, The Netherlands
2003
Flagship: Australian Art in the National Gallery of Victoria, 1790 - 2000, The Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
2003
SEX, Karen Lovegrove Gallery, Los Angeles, California
2002
Bill Henson, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, Australia (Solo)
2002
Fieldwork: Australian Art 1968 - 2002, National Gallery of Victoria, Federation Square, Melbourne (November 2002 to February 2003)
2002
Points of View, University of Technology Sydney Art Collection, UTS, Sydney
2002
Sublime: 25 Years of the Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia
2002
2nd Sight Australian Photography in the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2002
2002
Dirty Dozen, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
2002
The First Twenty Years, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
2002
Nocturne: Images of Night & Darkness from Colonial to Contemporary, 23 April - 16 June, MPRG Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery
2002
Images of Australian Men: Photographs from the Monash Gallery of Art Collection, A Monash Gallery of Art Travelling Exhibition (Adelaide Festival Centre, Gippsland Art Gallery, Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery, Geelong Art Gallery) 24 May 2002 - 21 Sept. 2003
2002
Other Views: an exhibition from the Griffith University Art Collection, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland
2001
Bill Henson, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia, November-December(Solo)
2001
Bill Henson, Scalo, Zurich, Switzerland, September - November (Solo)
2001
Phiction: lies, illusion and the phantasm in photography, Horsham Regional Art Gallery, Victoria, Australia, December
2001
a person looks at a work of art…, The Michael Buxton Contemporary Art Collection, 24 November 2001- 3 December 2002, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Victoria, Australia
2001
Lightness of Being, Contemporary Photographic Art from Australia, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, September - October; Museum Scholb Hardenberg, Velbert, November - January; Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, January - February; Kulturzentrum der Stadt Stuttgart, March - April, Germany
2000
Biennale of Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
2000
Millennium Exhibition, Los Angeles County Museum of Art Museum
2000
Presumed Innocent, CAPC Musee d'Art contemporain de Bordeaux, France
2000
All Stars 2000, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
2000
Darkness & light: looking at the landscape, McClelland Gallery; Ballarat Fine Art Gallery; Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand
2000
Bill Henson, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia, March (Solo)
2000
Bill Henson, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, Australia, August (Solo)
1999
Bill Henson, Karyn Lovegrove Gallery, Los Angeles, USA, March (Solo)
1999
The Promise of Photography: Selections from the DG Bank Collection, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York
1999
Moral Hallucinations: Channelling Hitchcock, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (1999 - 2000)
1999
Ghost in the Shell - Photography and the Human Soul 1850 - 2000, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1999 - 2000)
1999
13 - Blind Spot Summer Show, Robert Mann Gallery, New York
1998
Liberamente, Comune di Cescna, Italy
1998
Bill Henson, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia, May - June (Solo)
1998
Bill Henson, ACP Galerie Peter Schuengel, Salzburg, Austria, January - February (Solo)
1997
Bill Henson, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, Australia (Solo)
1997
Melbourne International Festival of Arts, Melbourne, Australia, October - November (Solo)
1997
Body, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
1997
Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
1997
Bill Henson, Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, Sarah Jones, Galerie Gebauer, Berlin, Germany
1996
Bill Henson, Banning and Associates, New York, USA, February. (Solo)
1996
Bill Henson, Works from the 46th Venice Biennale, Lawrence Wilson Gallery, Perth, Australia, February - March. (Solo)
1996
Bill Henson: Photographs form the Monash City Council Collection, March (Solo)
1996
Bill Henson, Recent Works from 1995/96, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, April - May (Solo)
1996
Bill Henson, Works from The 46th Venice Biennale, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, April - May (Solo)
1996
Bill Henson, Works from The 46th Venice Biennale, National Gallery of Victoria, May - June (Solo)
1996
Bill Henson, Works from The 46th Venice Biennale, Art Gallery of New South Wales, July - September (Solo)
1996
Bill Henson, Works from The 46th Venice Biennale, Plimsoll Gallery University of Hobart, October - November (Solo)
1996
System's End: Contemporary Art In Australia, Oxy Gallery, Osaka, April.
1996
From The Street: Photographs From The Collection of The Art Gallery of New South Wales, April 27 - 14 July 1996
1996
Inheritance, Australian Centre for Photography, April, Sydney
1996
Photography is Dead! Long Live Photography!, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, July-November
1996
Australian Art - Colonial to Contemporary 1780 - 1990, D.F.A., August
1996
Face Value, Waverley City Gallery, Sydney, September
1995
Bill Henson, 46th Venice Biennale, Australian Pavilion, June - September (Solo)
1995
Bill Henson, Galerie Froment & Putman, Paris, August - September (Solo)
1995
Bill Henson, Photographs, Peter McCleavey Gallery, Wellington, November. (Solo)
1995
30th Artists Today Exhibition, Yokohama Citizen's Art Gallery, Yokohama, March 1995
1995
Through a Glass Darkly, Guinness Contemporary Art Project, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 19 May - 16 July
1995
Passions Privee, ARC Musee D'Art Modern D'La Ville De Paris, December - January 1996
1994
Bill Henson & Ranier Usselmann, Cambridge Darkroom, UK
1994
Pride-of-Place, Art Gallery of Western Australia, May 1994
1994
The Full Spectrum: Colour Photography in Australia 1860s to 1990s, National Gallery of Victoria, June 1994
1994
Printemps de Cahors France, Cartier Foundation, June 1994
1993
Clemenger Triennial Exhibition of Australian Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Feb - May 1993
1993
Presences, London Photographers Gallery, November 1993 - January 1995
1993
Bill Henson, Tel Aviv Museum of Art. February - March (Solo)
1993
Bill Henson, University of Tasmania, Tasmanian School of Art, Hobart, April/May (Solo)
1993
Bill Henson, Works from Untitled 1992 -1993, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, May - June (Solo)
1993
Bill Henson Work from Two Decades 1970s - 1990s, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne (Solo)
1993
Bill Henson Selected Works, Geelong Regional Art Gallery (Solo)
1992
Works From The Paris Opera Project, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, March -April (Solo)
1992
Bill Henson, Perspektief Gallery, Rotterdam. June - July (Solo)
1992
A Constructed Reality, National Gallery of Victoria. January - February
1992
Strangers in Paradise, Contemporary Australian Art, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea, November - December
1992
Sights of the Imagination: Contemporary Photographers View Melbourne and Its People, National Gallery of Victoria, September
1992
Group Show, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, December
1991
Bill Henson Photographies, Les Ateliers Nadar, Marseille (France), March (Solo)
1991
Bill Henson, Peter McCleavey Gallery, Wellington, June (Solo)
1991
Des De El Fin Del Imperio, Circulo De Bellas Artes, Madrid, March
1991
The Corporeal Body, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, April - May
1991
Corriger Les Lieux, Apres La Photographie De Voyage, Maison de la Culture, Frontenac, Montreal, April - May
1991
Photodeath, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, April - June
1991
Egypt From the Nineteenth Century Until Now, Montpellier Museum, France, May - June
1991
Sphinx: Bathazar Burckhard, Bill Henson, Thomas Ruff, & Susan Wides, Galerie Pierre Bernard, Nice, May - June
1991
Peuples En Image: Weegee, Bill Henson, Roy Arden, Raymonde April and Anne Favrat, Le Lieu Galerie de Photographies, Lorient (France), November - December
1991
Elegia de la Mirada, Raymonde April, Bill Henson, Patrick Tosani, Thomas Ruff, Jeff Wall, Sala de Arte la Recova, Santa Crus de Tenerife, November - December
1990
Bill Henson Installation 1985/86, Urbi et Orbi, Paris, November 1989 - January 1990 (Solo)
1990
Bill Henson Photography, Denver Art Museum, December 1989 - May 1990 (Solo)
1990
Bill Henson Photography, Marta Cevera Gallery, New York, March - April (Solo)
1990
Bill Henson, Nathalie Karg Gallery, New York (Solo)
1990
Bill Henson, Glendash Gallery, Los Angeles, July (Solo)
1990
Bill Henson Photographs, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, September-November (Solo)
1990
Bill Henson Untitled 1977/87, Milburn+Arte, Brisbane, March (Solo)
1990
Bill Henson, Images from 'Untitled 1987/88', Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, March - April (Solo)
1990
Bill Henson Photographs 1974 - 84, Garry Anderson Gallery, Sydney, March -April (Solo)
1990
Edge 90, Newcastle upon Tyne, Glasgow, London, May - June
1990
Twenty Contemporary Australian Photographers 'From the Hallmark Cards
1990
Passages De L'Image, Centre George Pompidou, Paris, September-November, Wexner Art Centre, Colombus, (Ohio, USA), July - October, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, December 1991 - February, Fundacio Caixa de Pensions, Barcelona, February - March
1989
Bill Henson Fotografien, Museum Moderner Kunst, Palais Liechtenstein, Vienna, February - March (Solo)
1989
Bill Henson Photographs 1974 - 1984, Deutscher Gertrude Street, Melbourne, June (Solo)
1989
Bill Henson, Untitled 1987/88, Realities, Melbourne, November (Solo)
1989
I.C.I. Contemporary Art Collection, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Ballarat (Touring) May - June
1989
Photo Kunst, Stuttgart Staats Gallerie (including Jeff Wall, Cragie Horstfelt, Sigmar Polke)
1989
International Fototriennale Esslingen, September - November
1989
Artists Under Saturn, Ian Potter Gallery, University of Melbourne, November - December (touring 1990)
1988
Bill Henson, Untitled 1985/86, Rex Irwin Gallery, Sydney, February - March (Solo)
1988
Bill Henson, La Chartreuse de Villeneuve les Avignon, Avignon, November (Solo)
1988
The Bicentennial Australian Perspecta 1987/ 88, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 15 October - 29 November 1987, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 5 March - 17 April 1988
1988
Shades of Light, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, March
1988
1978 - 1988 Ten Years of Australian Photography, Australian National Gallery at the Australian National University, Drill Hall, Canberra, April
1988
Behold the Man, Photographers' Gallery, London, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, May - August
1988
Edge to Edge: Australian Contemporary Art to Japan 1988/ 89, National Museum of Art Osaka, May - July; Hara Museum, Tokyo, July - September; Nagoya City Museum, Sapporo, April
1988
The Loti and Victor Smorgon Collection of Contemporary Australian Art: Selected Works, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, February - March
1988
The Thousand Mile Stare, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (touring), March - April
1988
Creating Australia: 200 Years of Art 1788-1988, T.C.C.A. and the Australian Bicentennial Authority by the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (touring)
1988
Aperto XLIII Biennale Di Venezia, Venice, June - September
1988
Contemporary Australian Art to China, Beijing, (touring), November
1988
Mnemosyne of the Theme of Recording - An Exhibition with and in the Castle Herrnsheim, Castle Herrnsheim, Frankfurt, September - October
1988
The Bicentennial Australian Perspecta 1987/88, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt (touring thru 1989)
1988
Australian Art Post - 1960, Deutscher Gertrude Street, Melbourne, October
1988
Australian Art in Paris, Salpetiere, C.I.R.C.A., Paris, December - January
1987
Bill Henson, Untitled 1983/84, Australian National Gallery at the Australian National University, Drill Hall, Canberra, 6 December 1986 - 5 April 1987(Solo)
1987
Bill Henson, Untitled 1983/84, Tasmanian School of Art Gallery, University of Tasmania, Hobart, 25 April - 17 May(Solo)
1987
Bill Henson Photographs, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia (Solo)
1987
Bill Henson Photographs, Realities, Melbourne, November (Solo)
1987
Living In the Seventies - Australian Photographs, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, June - September
1987
Aberdare Prize for Landscape, Ipswich City Council Art Gallery, Ipswich, August - September
1986
Ten Years On, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, February - March
1986
Big Pictures, Australian National Gallery at the Australian National University, Drill Hall, Canberra, March - May
1986
Sixth Biennale of Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, May - July
1986
Prospect 86, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, September - November
1986
The Repeated Image, Griffith University, Griffith, September - October
1986
Bill Henson Photographs, Pinacotheca, Melbourne, July (Solo)
1985
Bill Henson, Untitled 1983/84, Pinacotheca, Melbourne, Australia, July (Solo)
1985
Bill Henson Photographs, Garry Anderson Gallery, Sydney, September - October (Solo)
1985
Bill Henson Photographs, The Developed Image Gallery, Adelaide, October - November (Solo)
1985
C.S.R. Photography Project, Queensland Art gallery, (touring) November - January
1985
Australian Art Now, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, November - January
1985
La Photographie Creative, Pavilion Des Arts, Paris, November - January
1985
Australian Visions, Queensland Art Gallery, 10 January - 10 February, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 8 March - 7 April; Art Gallery of Western Australia, 20 April - 20 May
1985
Isolaustralia, Galleria Bevilacqua La Masa, Venice, May - June
1985
Australiana, Galerija Studentskog Kulturnog Centra, Belgrade, September; Zagreb, October
1985
Recent Australian Photography From the Kodak Fund, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, October - February
1984
Bill Henson Photographs, Cockatoo Gallery, Launceston, May (Solo)
1984
C.S.R. Photography Project Selected Works, Opera House Exhibition Hall, Sydney, March - April
1984
Australian Visions: 1984, Exxon International Exhibition, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, September - November
1983
D'un Autre Continent: l'Australie, Le Reve et le Reel, A.R.C.2: Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, October - December
1983
Australian Artists in Amsterdam, Gallerie Jurka in association with Gallerie Wetering and Gallerie Biederberg-Muller, Amsterdam, October
1983
C.S.R. Photography Project, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, October
1983
A Decade of Australian Photography 1972 - 1982, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, October - January
1982
Biennale of Sydney: Vision in Disbelief, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, April - May
1982
Male, James Harvey Gallery, Sydney, July
1982
Sexual Imagery in Art, Tasmanian School of Art Gallery, University of Tasmania, Hobart, September
1982
Bill Henson Untitled Series 1977, The Developed Image Gallery, Adelaide, February - March(Solo)
1982
Bill Henson Photographs, North Hobart Photographic Gallery, Hobart, July (Solo)
1981
Bill Henson Photographs, Photographers' Gallery, London, November (Solo)
1981
Australian Perspecta 1981: A Biennial Survey of Contemporary Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, May - June
1981
Scene, Sequence, Series, Nantes Regional Gallery, France (co-ordinated by Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris and Musee des Beau-Arts de Nantes), October - November
1980
Aspects of the Philip Morris Collection: Four Australian Photographers, Australian Embassy, Paris (touring), September
1980
Photography - The Last Ten Years, Australian National Gallery at the Australian National University, Drill Hall, October
1980
Bill Henson Photographs, Church Street Photographic Centre, Melbourne, February (Solo)
1979
Bill Henson Photographs, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, October (Solo)
1978
Bill Henson Photographs, Church Street Photographic Centre, Melbourne, August (Solo)
1978
The Nude, Glanville Gallery, Perth; Susan Gillespie Gallery, Canberra, Church Street Photographers Centre, Melbourne, September
1978
New Australian Work, The Photographers Gallery, Melbourne, September
1975
Bill Henson, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, July/ August (Solo)
1974
Graduating Photography, Ewing Gallery and George Paton Gallery, The University of Melbourne, July