After arriving in Australia as an adolescent in 1884, Charles Conder became one of the key founders of the Heidelberg school of Australian Imressionism with Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and Arthur Streeton. Six years later he returned to Europe to become a legendary figure of the fin de siècle, mixing with leading artists and writers of the day including Toulouse-Lautrec, Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley.
The exhibition begins with a number of portraits of Conder by leading artists of the day who were also his friends. It follows his early career in Australia from the landscapes made around Sydney and New South Wales, to works he created in Melbourne. It then focuses on the Moulin Rouge in Paris, the artist’s French and English plein air landscapes, portraits and lithographs, and culminates with the peak of his European achievement: dreamily ornamental paintings on silk.
These last works, including wall hangings, fans and decorative interior pieces are a revelation of Conder’s exquisite skill and imagination. They conclude the two short decades that formed the career of one of Australia’s most fascinating and enigmatic artists.