London for Australian women.

Australian Impressionists

Australian Impressionists

Australian art exhibited in London.

It's always a great source of pride when you see Australian art exhibited in the UK. My own grandfather, Murray Griffin, was an Australian artist and I spent my formative years visiting galleries with him and learning about Australian art history. Now I can re-visit famous works from my youth at Trafalgar Square. 

Arthur Streeton, Golden Summer, Eaglemont, 1889 Oil on canvas 81.3 × 152.6  National Gallery of Australia, CanberraPurchased 1995 © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Arthur Streeton, Golden Summer, Eaglemont, 1889 Oil on canvas 81.3 × 152.6
 National Gallery of Australia, CanberraPurchased 1995 © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Billed as "the first of its kind in the UK", this National Gallery exhibition shows the work of Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Charles Condor and John Russell. 

Tom Roberts Trafalgar Square, 1904 Oil on cardboard 14 × 28 cm Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide South Australian Government Grant 1988 © Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Tom Roberts Trafalgar Square, 1904 Oil on cardboard 14 × 28 cm Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide South Australian Government Grant 1988 © Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Given the quality of these artworks, it's surprising that they've not been widely exhibited in the UK before now. They have such startling and uplifting colour. 

Sadly, the exhibition doesn't features any women. Noting her absence, thank you Jane Sutherland for paving the way for future Australian female artists. I will think of you when I next visit the works of Tracey Moffatt at the Tate Modern

These works were created in a period when Australia was regarded as part of the British Empire. You can't help but think about the links between Australia and Britain while you are looking at the paintings: the contrast of light and dark;  the changes in colour and mood; and the place names. 

Surely anyone who works in the Australian tourism industry should visit this exhibition and take notes for it is bound to inspire a Brexit dash to the antipodes.  

 

Charles Conder, A Holiday at Mentone, 1888, Oil on canvas 46.2 x 60.8 cm Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. South Australian Government Grant with the assistance of Bond Corporation Holdings Limited through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation to mark the Gallery's Centenary 1981 © Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Charles Conder, A Holiday at Mentone, 1888, Oil on canvas 46.2 x 60.8 cm Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. South Australian Government Grant with the assistance of Bond Corporation Holdings Limited through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation to mark the Gallery's Centenary 1981 © Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Charles Conder was born in Middlesex and was sent to Australia by his father as a 16 year old. Can you imagine how he felt as he landed in New South Wales?

Arthur Streeton, Ariadne, 1895 Oil on wood panel 12.7 x 35.4 cm National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Members Acquisition Fund 2016 © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Arthur Streeton, Ariadne, 1895 Oil on wood panel 12.7 x 35.4 cm National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Members Acquisition Fund 2016 © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

The parents of immigration-love child, Arthur Streeton, reputedly met on the ship travelling to Australia in 1854.  Streeton himself lived in the Melbourne areas of Richmond, Eaglemont and Heidelberg  - places of my own gorgeous childhood.  

I love to think about a young Arthur finding out that his work; Golden Summer, Eaglemont; was accepted for exhibition at the Royal Academy in London around the 1900s, thus becoming the first Australian born white artist to be exhibited. It especially appeals to me because I lived in Eaglemont and loved my summers with my artist Grandfather by the Yarra River. 

Tom Roberts Fog, Thames Embankment, 1884 Oil on paperboard 13.1 × 21.7 cm Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Purchased with funds provided by the Gleeson O'Keefe Foundation 2008© AGNSW

Tom Roberts Fog, Thames Embankment, 1884 Oil on paperboard 13.1 × 21.7 cm Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Purchased with funds provided by the Gleeson O'Keefe Foundation 2008© AGNSW

Tom Roberts was born in Dorset and he moved to Melbourne Australia around the age of 10.   He temporarily returned to London in the early 1880s to study at the Royal Academy Schools and travel to Spain and  Paris. It's a tour that many Australian artists still undertake today. 

Tom Roberts A Quiet Day on Darebin Creek, 1885 Oil on wood panel 26.4 × 34.8 cm National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1969 © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Tom Roberts A Quiet Day on Darebin Creek, 1885 Oil on wood panel 26.4 × 34.8 cm National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1969 © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

John Russell was a typical Sydney-sider.  A clever and monied networker, he befriended the likes of Vincent van Gogh in Paris, Claude Monet  and Henri Matisse and began his own artists colony on a French Island. 

John Russell Antibes, about 1890-2 Oil on canvas 16.5 × 24 cm Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Gift of the Margaret Hannah Olley Art Trust 2012 © AGNSW

John Russell Antibes, about 1890-2 Oil on canvas 16.5 × 24 cm Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Gift of the Margaret Hannah Olley Art Trust 2012 © AGNSW

Curiously, I don't recall Australians ever using the term "impressionists" within their art history lexicon but perhaps this has changed?  I do remember many references to the Australian Heidelberg School of Painters.

However, whatever the language used to describe this period of art, Australians will love seeing images from Australia as well as London. 

The titles of the art works evoke such memories for me: Holiday Sketch at CoogeeDeparture of the Orient – Circular Quay, Saplings and Golden Summer, Eaglemont. 

Ah! How I miss the homeland. 

Tom Roberts, Holiday Sketch at Coogee, 1888. Oil on canvas 40.3 × 55.9 cm Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Purchased 1954 © AGNSW

Tom Roberts, Holiday Sketch at Coogee, 1888. Oil on canvas 40.3 × 55.9 cm Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Purchased 1954 © AGNSW

Pleasingly, the initial reviews are excellent. The Evening Standard posted an exhibition review with the headline of "A fascinating show on an explosive theme"  and explained "This excellent show explains how four 19th-century Australians re-invented the French art movement for their own new country."

Well, of course! 

I think the last major show featuring Australian artworks took place in 2013 with The Royal Academy's Australia exhibition. Let's hope that we see more Australian art in future. 

 

 

Lillie O'Brien and Jam

Lillie O'Brien and Jam

Cat Cafe - story of an Australian entrepreneur

Cat Cafe - story of an Australian entrepreneur