• House painting: Box Hill North (large version)

    House painting: Box Hill North (large version) (1977)

    Jenny WATSON

    Full details
    Notes
  • House painting: Box Hill North (small version)

    House painting: Box Hill North (small version) (1976)

    Jenny WATSON

    Full details
    Notes
  • Slumbering sea, Mentone

    Slumbering sea, Mentone 1887

    Tom ROBERTS

    Full details
    Notes
  • Rickett's Point

    Rickett's Point 1890

    Charles CONDER

    Full details
    Notes

    Contemporary critics considered Rickett's Point 'noticeable for clever summer colouring' and 'full of varied colour and clever effects’, but they felt it was too slight for public exhibition as a 'finished' picture – simply a stretch of bayside beach midway between Sandringham and Mordialloc.

    The painting is much less formally structured than his work A Holiday at Mentone, (Art Gallery of South Australia) but its apparent spontaneity is carefully balanced by Conder's decorative instinct. The long narrow canvas is divided horizontally – half sea, half sky – by a bold brilliant stripe of blue horizon, and diagonally by the foreground waterline and the treetops dissolved in a shimmer of light.

    The image is a vignette of happy idleness from the artist's last Australian summer. On 17 April 1890, the Victorian Artists' Society gave Conder and George Walton a grand farewell dinner at Legal's French restaurant in Spring Street: about ten days later Conder departed for Europe.

  • Near Heidelberg

    Near Heidelberg 1890

    Arthur STREETON

    Full details
    Notes

    Eaglemont homestead became something of an informal art school when Arthur Streeton and Charles Conder were living there. The artists learnt a great deal from one another, working together and painting the same views. Both painted from this hillside depicted in Near Heidelberg.

    Streeton learned, from Conder in particular, the decorative deployment of landscape features: the slender silhouetted gum tree motif in Near Heidelberg, for example, also appears in Conder’s 9 by 5 Impression, Dandenong from Heidelberg c.1889 (Art Gallery of South Australia Collection). The ‘square brush’ method of paint application is a legacy of Tom Roberts’s training in England. The brilliant blue-and-gold palette was perhaps Streeton’s particular contribution, continuing as a hallmark of his interpretation of Australian landscape for the remainder of his long career.

  • The artists' camp

    The artists' camp (1886)

    Tom ROBERTS

    Full details
    Notes

Melbourne

Escaping the metropolis

Melbourne’s central business district is perhaps a misnomer when we consider it has also been – and continues to be – a central artistic district for some of Australia’s greatest artists and designers. Since the mid 1800s, artists have lived and worked in the city, establishing a network of studios that play an important role in the cultural history and life of the city.

  • The ‘burbs

    While Box Hill was a bushy idyll for artists in the nineteenth century, it has since become absorbed into Melbourne’s sprawling metropolis.

    These paintings by Jenny Watson, both entitled House painting Box Hill North and dated 1976, belong to a series of paintings of houses she has lived in. These works illustrate Watson’s commitment to conceptual practice and suggest the importance of photography as a source and also as an extension to our perception of the painted image.

  • Beside the seaside

    Artists were among the city’s escapees. In the summer of 1886–87, Tom Roberts, Fred McCubbin and Louis Abrahams rented a cottage in the beachside suburb of Mentone to paint en plein air (in the open air).

    Roberts painted Slumbering Sea, Mentone 1887 on this holiday. The distant cliff, still water and white-clad figures seem to be bleached of colour in the glare of the midday sun.

    Charles Conder, who worked with Roberts and Streeton, also travelled beyond the city to paint his seascapes, including Ricketts Point 1890. See how the long narrow canvas is divided horizontally — half sea, half sky — by a brilliant bold stripe of blue horizon.25

    In the twentieth century, Melbourne’s bayside suburb of St Kilda became particularly popular, with its added attraction of the theme park Luna Park, which opened in 1912. This work by Sidney Nolan, who was born and raised in St Kilda, shows Luna Park illuminated by moonlight.

  • Bush tranquility

    Melburnians also sought the tranquillity of the bush.  By the late 1880s, both Box Hill and Heidelberg –yet to become the built-up suburbs they are today – could be reached by rail and became popular destinations.

    In the mid 1880s, bushland not far from the Box Hill railway station became a favoured painting site. Tom Roberts’s The Artists’ Camp, c.1886, shows fellow artists Frederick McCubbin and Louis Abrahams drinking billy tea and grilling chops over a fire.

    Roberts, together with Arthur Streeton and Charles Conder, also painted in rural Heidelberg. The artists worked in an impressionist style, painting in the open air to capture the light and colour of the landscape using broad areas of colour and tone, and rapid brushstrokes. This style of painting has a fresh informal quality as we see in Streeton’s Near Heidelberg 1890, which conveys the atmosphere of a hot summer’s day.26

Endnotes


  • 25 Jane Clark and Bridget Whitelaw, Golden Summers – Heidelberg and beyond, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1985, p. 110.

  • 26 Jane Clark and Bridget Whitelaw, Golden Summers – Heidelberg and beyond, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 198, p. 105.