Robert Quentin Hole was born in Charleville, Queensland on 6 May 1923. Nothing is known of his early years or education but he enlisted in the Australian Army in 1945 so that when he was discharged a year later he was able to study art (under Melville Haysom at the Central Technical College, Brisbane under the terms Commonwealth Rehabilitation Scheme from 1947 to 1949). He was a member of the Younger Artists Group of the Royal Queensland Art Society and exhibited with the parent group in 1949 and 1951. He held an exhibition with his friend Don Cowen in Brisbane in 1950 before they travelled to North Queensland where they held a further exhibition of their works in Cairns.

Hole was clearly regarded as a promising young artist as his work was included in the 'Exhibition of Queensland Art’, held at the Queensland Art Gallery in 1951 (Queensland’s response to the 'Commonwealth Jubilee Exhibition’ as so few Queenslanders were included in the official selection) and also in the first exhibition of 'Queensland Artists of Fame and Promise’ in 1952. He received a considerable profile for his involvement with Cowen in the production of a series of murals in the Old Geology Museum at the University of Queensland ( The Courier-Mail , 1952). The first mural depicts The Age of Reptiles (1951) in a narrow panoramic strip of some 15 metres in length. Their The Age of Mammals (1952) is considerably smaller. In 1958 Hole was commissioned to complete the series with a depiction of the enormous marine reptile Kronosaurus queenslandicus in The King of the Sea (the story of the mural is told by Dr Kerry Heckenberg in Queensland Historical Atlas ).

His early exhibition career in Queensland was largely held with Brian and Marjorie Johnstone firstly in conjunction with Don Cowen at the Marodian Gallery and in a 'Christmas Exhibition’ in 1951. When the gallery changed its premises and became the Johnstone Gallery he contributed to its second exhibition of painting and exhibitions in 1952 before having a 'Farewell exhibition’ in 1953 in which the critic, Ernest Briggs, praised Hole’s “two different styles” ( The Courier-Mail , 1953) before he departed on the 'Moreton Bay’ for London with Cowen a few days later. His paintings are largely landscape with a focus, common at the time, on the derelict inner suburb of Spring Hill.

Hole studied under Hans Tisdall, Patrick Heron and Victor Passmore at the Central School of Arts and Crafts London from 1954 to 1956. At this time he sent an exhibition entitled 'Paintings from abroad’ to the Johnstone Gallery in 1954 which evinced measured praise from Dr Gertrude Langer ( The Courier-Mail , 1954) and on his return in 1956 held another solo exhibition. After being included in the 1957 'Exhibition of Queensland Art’ with other promising younger artists such as Jon Molvig and Margaret Olley he disappears from the exhibition scene in Queensland.

Hole had already begun his involvement with theatre before he departed Brisbane in a Twelfth Night Theatre production of Jean Anouhil’s Ring Round The Moon . When he returned to Australia he worked as a painter and theatre designer, first with the Twelfth Night Theatre in Brisbane being involved with company’s 1962 production of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata , the Union Repertory Theatre, Melbourne University, and subsequently with the Elizabethan Trust Opera Company when he designed costumes for the productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas HMS Pinafore and Iolanthe in 1969.

He then moved to Sydney where he worked in television productions including as designer for the ABC’s production of Daisy Bates 1863-1951: Our first saint in 1972 and subsequently: Seven little Australians (1973); Ride on Stranger (1979); Big Toys (1980); The Coral Island (1983); A Halo for Athuan (1984); Boy in the Bush (1984); Naked under Capricorn (1989); and The private War of Lucinda Smith (1990). He designed costumes for Great Expectations, the Untold Story (1986) and was art director for No Room to Run (1978).

Hole’s early penchant for illustration in his murals found ideal expression when he provided illustrations to Banjo Paterson’s poems The man from Ironbark (1974) which won the 1975 Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year Award and A bush christening (1976). In 1981 he wrote and illustrated a children’s book How to demolish a monster which was set in North Queensland and Dancing Phoebe and the Famous Mumblegum Piano (1987).

Cooke, Glenn R.Note: Research Curator, Queensland Heritage, Queensland Art Gallery.
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