From the outset, London immediately post war, Hal Hattam, surgeon, and his photographer wife Kate were attracted to, and themselves created, a literary and artistic milieu: Stella Bowen, living with Ford Maddox Ford, painted Hattam in his army uniform (the portrait is now in the Australian War Memorial); Simone de Beauvoir was a visitor. On their return to Australia Hal and Kate met artists Perceval, Blackman, Boyd, Pugh and Williams. Painting trips to Williamstown, the Dandenongs and You Yangs saw friendships develop with Roger Kemp, Len French, and Jan Senbergs – and later Hickey, Jacks, Hunter and Partos.
During this time Hattam was discovering his own painting vision and signature style, and by the 1970s translated his lifelong love of the beach , surrounding bush, and sand dunes into his uniquely romantic and emotion filled paintings.
As Patrick McCaughey, former director NGV, states in the Heide catalogue 2003 (A Tribute to Hal Hattam), “Hal Hattam was always happiest as an artist out there in the landscape. At this stage the Shoreham Beach Scapes began, the most beautiful, sonorous paintings Hattam ever produced…”
“The beach of these paintings is undisturbed by any human presence. The sand is untrodden. The beach occupies virtually the entire canvas; it absorbs the total consciousness of the painter and the viewer, in turn.”
McCaughey again, “…as Chris Wallace – Crabbe poet and critic, shrewdly observed, (the paintings of Hal Hattam) bespeak the struggle to escape from a medical life, striving towards Bachelard’s world of reverie.”