The Heidelberg “School”

 

Late 1880s early 90s

 

Refers to those artists painting au plein air around Melbourne – the coast (Mentone, Brighton, Mentone, Beaumaris), Box Hill,  and around Heidelberg (Templestowe, Eaglemont,  Charterisville)

 

Not a movement as such but a group of artists/friends, many of whom studied at the National Gallery Art School of Victoria, who painted together

When Tom Roberts returned to Melbourne in 1885, he and Louis Abrahams and Frederick McCubbin established the first plein-air camp at Box Hill, where they painted landscapes that captured the distinctive light and mystery of the Australian bush. Box Hill was followed in the summer of 1886-87 by the Mentone camp, Port Phillip Bay, where the young Arthur Streeton joined the group. The next summer, 1888-89 the spotlight moved to Heidelberg, where Streeton was joined by Conder and Roberts, and together they painted, socialised and planned the now-famous 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition which was held at Buxton’s Rooms in the city in August 1889.

Much of the activity of the Australian Impressionists took place in New South Wales. The exhibition looks at Tom Roberts’s trip to Sydney in Easter 1888, his meeting with Conder and their painting trip to Coogee. The following Spring, Conder visited Richmond in NSW and painted his famous blossom pictures,

By 1890 the boom that underpinned the world of ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ had broken and it was becoming very difficult for artists to sell pictures. Early that year the household of the ‘happy trio’ at Heidelberg disintegrated. Conder returned to Europe in April and Roberts and Streeton spent increasing amounts of time in Sydney and rural NSW. Roberts eventually abandoned his stylish Grosvenor Chambers studio in Collins Street for a borrowed studio in Sydney and a tent on Sydney Harbour. Streeton’s Sydney Harbour and Hawkesbury River landscapes are the subjects of separate installations in the exhibition, as are the landscapes of Jane Sutherland, the portraits of Roberts and Streeton, and Symbolism, as it emerges in the work of Conder and Streeton.

The natural bush land on David Houston’s property at Box Hill was the site of the artists’ first plein-air camp. During 1885 and 1886, this was the favoured painting site for Fred McCubbin, Tom Roberts and another artist, Louis Abrahams. It is thought that Jane Sutherland made day trips to the camp. The railway line opened in 1882 made Box Hill easily accessible to the city-based artists. The site, only three quarters of a mile from the Box Hill railway station at the bottom of what is now Foch Street, was described by a visitor, Mme Nancy Elmhurst Goode:

 

In the vicinity of the Homestead belonging to the Houstons was a patch of wild bush, tall young saplings with the sun glistening on their leaves and streamers of bark swaying, groups of tea–tree, dogwood and tall dry grasses. A fire was lighted and we were invited to share an alfresco lunch, The Don (Abrahams) earnestly frying eggs on a piece of tin, the Prof (McCubbin) busy with billy tea, and the Bulldog (Roberts) joyously cutting bread and butter and taking full command…

1885 -  6

Box Hill camp

•Tom Roberts

• Louis Abrahams

• Frederick McCubbin

• Jane Sutherland

The natural bush land on David Houston’s property at Box Hill was the site of the artists’ first plein-air camp. During 1885 and 1886, this was the favoured painting site for Fred McCubbin, Tom Roberts and another artist, Louis Abrahams. It is thought that Jane Sutherland made day trips to the camp. The railway line opened in 1882 made Box Hill easily accessible to the city-based artists. The site, only three quarters of a mile from the Box Hill railway station at the bottom of what is now Foch Street, was described by a visitor, Mme Nancy Elmhurst Goode:

 

In the vicinity of the Homestead belonging to the Houstons was a patch of wild bush, tall young saplings with the sun glistening on their leaves and streamers of bark swaying, groups of tea–tree, dogwood and tall dry grasses. A fire was lighted and we were invited to share an alfresco lunch, The Don (Abrahams) earnestly frying eggs on a piece of tin, the Prof (McCubbin) busy with billy tea, and the Bulldog (Roberts) joyously cutting bread and butter and taking full command…

 

Frederick McCubbin
Lost 1886
oil on canvas
115.8 x 73.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Tom Roberts’s The Artists’ Camp, c.1886, shows McCubbin drinking his billy tea while Abrahams grills chops over a fire of gum twigs. Roberts set up his easel nearby to capture his impression of the scene ‘on the spot’. Roberts worked quickly, applying broad areas of colour to the canvas, to record the scene before the light faded. Over the areas of green, russet and soft browns describing the grass, he has brushed in the saplings and clumps of grass in more detail. The ‘intimate’, close focus of Roberts’s painting (we can’t see the tops of the trees), and the relaxed atmosphere, conveys the sense that this generation of painters felt that they ‘belonged’ in the Australian bush.

 

Frederick McCubbin
Lost 1886
oil on canvas
115.8 x 73.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

McCubbin’s direct experience of the bush at Box Hill is evident in his observation of the bark peeling from the trunk of the foreground eucalypt, the dry grass, twiggy saplings and the blue-grey palette of his painting, Lost, 1886. McCubbin often liked to tell a story in his paintings, and this work refers to the theme of the lost child, a theme that featured in literature and the popular press at the time, inspired by actual cases of children becoming lost in the Australian bush. Not long before McCubbin painted Lost, a young girl, Clara Crosbie, was found alive after three weeks lost in the bush near Lilydale.

1885 -  6

Templestowe

• Tom Roberts

• Louis Abrahams

• Frederick McCubbin

• Jane Sutherland

In 1888 Streeton took the train to Heidelberg (the railway was put through in May 1888), to visit the site of Louis Buvelot’s Summer afternoon, Templestowe, 1866. On his return to Heidelberg station, carrying a picture that he just painted and which was still wet, he met Mr. C. M. Davies and his sister. To Streeton’s delight, Mr Davies offered him ‘artistic possession’ of the old weatherboard homestead on his Mount Eagle estate. The house, which stood on the top of a hill and was surrounded by a beautiful collection of conifers and other exotic trees, became the artists’ ‘place in the country’. Streeton, Conder and Roberts spent the summers of 1888/9 and 1889/90 there, and it was their paintings from this time and place that led to them being known as the ‘Heidelberg School.’

 

Streeton spent his first night there in December 1888, sleeping on the floor with his boots and coat for a pillow. Conder and Roberts joined him early in 1889:

Our beds were made of cornsacks nailed to two saplings, and supported by upright pieces to raise them from the floor. Our seats were old boxes, our dining table was a box with boards placed across it. Our leg of mutton, potatoes, and so forth were all cooked together in a large pail. Our illumination was tallow candles. Surrounded by the loveliness of the new landscape, with heat, drought, and flies, and hard pressed for the necessaries of life, we worked hard, and were a happy trio.

The idyllic summers shared by Streeton, Roberts and Conder at Heidleberg were remembered with great nostalgia by the three painters. Jane Sutherland made day trips to Heidelberg and art students visited them at weekends. During the days the three would paint and in the evenings they talked long into the night, often reading the poetry of the English Romantics and drinking red wine. Conder captured an impression of the interior of the house, with his comrades, Roberts (seated) and Streeton, in his 9 by 5 oil sketch, Impressionists’ camp, 1889.

1887

Eaglemont

Heidelberg

 

 

• Tom Roberts

• Frederick McCubbin

•Walter Withers

•Arthur Streeton

1890

Charterisville

Heidelberg

 

 

• Walter Withers

• E Phillips Fox

• Tudor St George Tucker

• David Davies

In 1890, Walter Withers took over the south end of the Heidelberg mansion ‘Charterisville’ and sub-let rooms. In 1894 the tenancy went to Phillips Fox and Tudor St. George Tucker.1894 Emanuel Phillips Fox and Tudor St George Tucker opened an outdoor summer school at Charterisville in Ivanhoe. Tucker was born in London and moved to Australia for health reasons in 1881.[28] Attending the National Gallery School in the mid-1880s, he went to Paris in 1887 where he met Australian plein-airist E. Phillips Fox. They returned to Melbourne in 1892, and set up art schools in Flinders Lane and Charterisville where they expounded colour theories similar to that of the French impressionists.[29] His work recevied recognition at the Paris Salon and Royal Academy.

Charterisville is historically significant for its strong association with the artists of the Heidelberg School. In 1887, following the death of banker David McArthur, Charterisville passed into the hands of a dairy farmer who leased part of Charterisville to artist Walter Withers. Charterisville became an important centre and artists' colony within the Heidelberg School and went on to become the longest surviving artists' camp in Melbourne. Norman and Lionel Lindsay recorded the beauty of Charterisville and in 1893 Phillips Fox and Tudor St George started Australia's first Summer School at Charterisville.

 

Walter Withers, painter, illustrator and teacher and one of fourteen children, was born on 22 October 1854 at Aston Manor, Warwickshire, England. He arrived in Melbourne on 1 January 1883, and in May 1887 returned to England. He married Fanny Flinn on 11 October 1887, and studied in Paris, before returning to Melbourne on 11 June 1888.

In the Summer of 1889-90, he shared with Arthur Streeton the old farmhouse on the Mount Eagle estate. In 1890, he rented Charterisville, and in 1894 rented in Cape Street, Heidelberg. In 1898, he moved from Cape Street to ‘Withers Court’, Darebin Street, Heidelberg, and in 1903, settled at ‘Southernwood’, corner of Brougham and Bolton Streets, Eltham. He was known to his friends as the ‘Colonel’, and died in Eltham on 13 October 1914. He is buried nearby in the Anglican churchyard at St. Helena.

1862 - 1906

Tudor St George Tucker, painter and teacher, was born in London in 1862, the son of a British cavalry officer in the Indian Army. He arrived in Melbourne in 1881.

 

He studied at the National Gallery School, Melbourne, from 1883 – 87, and later in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts where he was awarded a gold medal. In 1893 with Emanuel Phillips Fox, Tucker founded the Melbourne Art School with a Summer School extension at Charterisville. The school offered students the principles of the impressionist approach to painting and continued to operate until 1899. During the 1890s Tucker also painted at the Blackburn camp of the Heidelberg School with Frederick McCubbin. From 1890-91 he edited a magazine the Australasian Critic with Baldwin Spencer.

 

By 1902 Tucker was living in Europe. He died in London in 1906 aged 44.

Walter Withers, painter, illustrator and teacher and one of fourteen children, was born on 22 October 1854 at Aston Manor, Warwickshire, England. He arrived in Melbourne on 1 January 1883, and in May 1887 returned to England. He married Fanny Flinn on 11 October 1887, and studied in Paris, before returning to Melbourne on 11 June 1888.

In the Summer of 1889-90, he shared with Arthur Streeton the old farmhouse on the Mount Eagle estate. In 1890, he rented Charterisville, and in 1894 rented in Cape Street, Heidelberg. In 1898, he moved from Cape Street to ‘Withers Court’, Darebin Street, Heidelberg, and in 1903, settled at ‘Southernwood’, corner of Brougham and Bolton Streets, Eltham. He was known to his friends as the ‘Colonel’, and died in Eltham on 13 October 1914. He is buried nearby in the Anglican churchyard at St. Helena.

Grosvenor Chambers at 9 Collins Street Melbourne, built ‘expressly for occupation by artists’, was opened in April 1888. Roberts took a studio there, as did Jane Sutherland and Clara Southern. Conder moved in when he came to Melbourne in October 1888, but only stayed until the following February. Other artists, such as Louis Abrahams, came and went, but Grosvenor Chambers became a focal point for social interaction between the artists of the city. Roberts initiated studio conversaziones, at which artists could discuss the latest art journals to arrive in Melbourne, there were informal musical events and there were ‘studio days’, when visitors could inspect pictures prior to public exhibition.

 

Roberts’s portrait, Mrs L. A. Abrahams, 1888, gives an insight into the décor of his studio. He had been inspired by studios seen in London and in Europe and he understood how a fashionably decorated studio could help with the sale of an artist’s work. Golda Abrahams is seated in an ‘Aesthetic’ interior, a panel of muslin in the manner of Whistler’s studio behind her, framed by a tall stem of pampas grass. The lacquered tray, the lantern and the sprig of japonica in the small blue vase refer to the contemporary fashion for Japanese artefacts. Roberts’s use of gum tips and wattle as floral decorations started a fad for gum leaves in the home.

 

Roberts, Streeton and McCubbin responded to the demand for portraits in the boom decade of the 1880s. Roberts received his sitters at his well-equipped studio at Grosvenor Chambers. One of his finest portraits Madame Pfund 1887, was painted prior to his move into Grosvenor Chambers. Like many of Roberts’s subjects Madame Pfund, who established a boarding school for girls in a St Kilda mansion, was socially very well connected. Roberts’s masterful handling of the textures of feathers, lace and the stiff fabric of Madame Pfund’s magnificent dress, and his portrayal of her character and intelligence typifies his ability as a portrait painter.

Although the Australian Impressionists have traditionally been associated with landscape painting, cityscapes were an important aspect of their work. The artists’ presence in the precinct of Grosvenor Chambers is reflected in the number of works that depict urban subjects taken from that area. Streeton’s Princess & Burke and Wills, 1889, shows Charles Summers’s memorial sculpture of the explorers Burke and Wills in front of the Princess Theatre in Spring Street.In Roberts’s By the Treasury,1889, painted on a wet day, is the view of Collins Street as it turns into Spring Street. Part of the Treasury Building can be seen on the right. The Australian Impressionists’ interest in urban subjects echoes that of the French Impressionists. In 1860 the French writer, Charles Baudelaire, urged the artists of Paris to paint ‘modern life’. In an essay entitled ‘On the heroism of modern life’, he wrote, ‘The life of our city is rich in poetic and marvellous subjects.’ The Australian Impressionists heard this view directly in a newspaper article titled ‘What should artists paint?’ written by the visiting journalist, Sydney Dickinson.

In 1888, Clara Southern sublet rooms from Tom Roberts in Grosvenor Chambers at 9 Collins Street, Melbourne, and over the next ten years, these rooms were used as her studio, which she shared with Jane Price and Jane Sutherland.

1853 Sutherland is born on the 26 December in New York to parents George and Jane Sutherland who quickly return to the family’s hometown of Dumbarton, Scotland.

1864 Sutherland family emigrates to Sydney.

1870 Sutherland, with her parents and five siblings (later seven) move to Melbourne and live at 1 Lytton Street, Carlton.

1871 At 18, Sutherland enrols in the School of Design at the National Gallery School with her father, and fellow artist Frederick McCubbin, then aged 16.

1877 Enters the School of Painting under the instruction of Eugéne von Guèrard.

1878 Whilst continuing to attend the Gallery School, Sutherland begins exhibiting professionally with the Victorian Academy of Arts, and later with the Australian Artists’ Association and then the Victorian Artists’ Society until 1911.

1883 Sutherland is the first woman elected to the Buonarotti Society, established for the promotion of literature, art and music.

1885-7 Joins sketching trips to the Melbourne bush, including the first artist’s camps at Box Hill with Tom Roberts, McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, Louis Abrahams and others, although returning each night to the city.

1889 Sutherland shares a studio with Clara Southern in the newly opened Grosvenor Chambers at 9 Collins Street with Roberts, George Walton and Jane R Price as neighbours. She later takes a second studio at Buxton’s Rooms, 119 Swanston Street for teaching purposes. Whilst not contributing to the famous 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition, Sutherland supports her fellow artists by acquiring Roberts’ Andante for her personal collection. 

1892 Becomes a member of The Field Naturalists Club, established to explore Australian natural history.
 
1900 She is the first woman elected to the Council of the Victorian Artists’ Society.

Living in the Latin quarter of Paris and studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889), he exhibited at the salon in 1880, 1881 and 1882. He also met Marie Huybers, the sister of Jessie Couvreur, and despite the rules of his scholarship he married her; they had one son and one daughter. Illness prevented him from submitting the annual painting to the Lisbon Art Gallery and he lost the scholarship. He travelled to London where he exhibited and attracted attention from critics, but a warmer climate became essential. In 1884 he went to Melbourne, arriving as an almost helpless invalid. He was fluent in Italian and French but had little English.

The Victorian Academy of Art was early controlled by amateurs, but in 1885 after the return of Tom Roberts a group of professional artists broke with the academy and formed the Australian Art Association; Loureiro with eight others were members. They held three exhibitions at the Buxton Gallery and successful smoke nights before amalgamating with the academy in 1888 to form the Victorian Artists' Society.

He studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence under Antonio Ciseri, whose academic style had been tempered by the influence of the Macchiaioli, a loosely associated group of painters who rebelled against the illusionism of the official art of the academies and advocated painting in the open air. Like the French Impressionists they were concerned to portray light, but were less concerned with momentary effects than with conveying a metaphysical intensity of light aimed at permanence. They often painted on small wooden panels, as Whistler and the Australian Impressionists were later to do. It was the influence of the Macchiaioli rather than the literary and romantic aspects of nineteenth-century Italian painting (which Nerli also absorbed and brought with him) that enabled him to contribute fresh ideas to Australasian painting.

With Italian fellow-artist Ugo Catani, Nerli travelled from Italy, visiting Madagascar, Mauritius and Bourbon before arriving in Melbourne in November 1885. He shared a studio in Collins Street with Catani and Artur Loureiro for almost a year before moving to Sydney. He joined the sketch club attached to the Art Society of New South Wales where, in 1887-88, he probably met Charles Conder. Conder's friend and colleague Arthur Streeton considered that Conder was much influenced by 'the brilliant Nerli' whose example thus assumes a special significance for Australian art at this time, though the gifted Conder soon surpassed Nerli.

May Vale, painter and teacher, was born in Ballarat West, Victoria in 1862. Her art studies began in London in 1875 where she was staying with her family and continued, on her return to Melbourne at the National Gallery School. She travelled overseas again to paint and study between 1890-92.

 

Vale was notable for her portraits and held art classes at her studio in Swanston Street, Melbourne. In 1906 she travelled again to London to study painting, enamelling, jewellery and metalwork. On her return to Australia in 1908 she settled permanently in Melbourne. While she continued to execute portrait commissions, enamelling became her life work. From 1920 she regularly exhibited and sold her jewellery and bowls, brightly coloured and often decorated with Australian wildflower motifs. She died in Melbourne in 1945.

While Roberts, McCubbin and Streeton were painting at Mentone, the young Charles Conder was beginning his career as an open-air painter at Richmond. Conder, who grew up in England, arrived in Sydney in 1884 to train as a surveyor under his uncle, William Jacomb Conder. However contemporaries recalled that ‘Charles had no intention of being a surveyor, his heart and soul was all on painting.’ Conder soon joined Daplyn on sketching trips to ocean beaches close to the city, and Julian Ashton and his students on painting expeditions to the Hawkesbury River and Richmond.

 

Conder spent a fortnight at Richmond in August 1888, staying at the Royal Hotel with three other painters, including A.H.Fullwood. Springtime, 1888, and An early taste for literature, 1888, were painted on this camp. Ashton had advised his students to work only from first-hand experience, to paint familiar scenes and to choose a landscape ‘which charms the eye.’ Conder did paint on the spot but he also continued to work on his canvases back in the studio, where he usually added the figures to his compositions. The angular forms of blossom trees in Conder’s Richmond paintings add to the decorative effect of his work. Blossoms became an important motif for Conder, their brief life on the branch alluding to the larger theme of the transience of life and beauty. In his painting Herrick’s blossoms, c.1888/1889, Conder referred to a poem, ‘To Blossoms’, by the seventeenth century English poet, Robert Herrick. Herrick also saw fragile, delicate blossoms as symbolic of the brevity of life and beauty.

Daplyn moved to Sydney in 1884, became secretary of the New South Wales Art Society and its instructor in painting in 1885-92. Among the artists he influenced were Charles Conder, Sydney Long and perhaps most of all, Julian Ashton, with whom he often painted on the Hawkesbury River. One of the many paintings exhibited by Daplyn was 'The moon is up and yet 'tis not night'; it was bought by the trustees of the National Gallery of New South Wales in 1900 and sold in 1946. About 1892 he visited at Vailima his old friend, Robert Louis Stevenson, whom he had met in his student days in France, and painted for nearly a year in Samoa. He then returned to Sydney and set up as an art expert, giving lessons and making illustrations. In 1902 he published Landscape Painting from Nature in Australia, a manual for the student in oil and water colours. In 1913 a substantial legacy took him to Paris and London; after World War I he made a sketching tour in Belgium. By 1920 he was back in Sydney; in 1924 he returned to England. Aged 82 he died at Chelsea on 19 July 1926. He left his 'paintings, pictures and books' to the artist William Lister Lister.

Julian Rossi Ashton (1851-1942), art teacher and artist, was born on 27 January 1851 at Addelstone, Surrey, England, elder son of a wealthy American, Thomas Briggs Ashton, and his wife Henrietta, daughter of Count Carlo Rossi, a Sardinian diplomat. Soon after his birth the family moved to Gulval, Cornwall, where his father, an amateur painter, encouraged the artistic leanings of Julian and his brother George. About 1862 the Ashtons moved to Totnes on the River Dart, where Julian attended the local grammar school, but his father died and the family, now in financial straits, went to London. Julian had art lessons from an old friend of his father whose teaching he described as 'the most helpful I ever had'. At 15 he took a job in the civil engineering branch of the Great Eastern Railway and attended the West London School of Art at night; after three years he joined a firm of ironmongers as a draftsman, but soon left to become a successful illustrator for such journals as Chatterbox and Cassell's Magazine. In 1873 he spent a few months at the new Académie Julian in Paris; he returned to illustration in London and had work accepted by the Royal Academy of Arts. On 1 August 1876 at Hackney he married Eliza Ann Pugh (d.1900).

Ashton, with his wife and son, reached Melbourne in the Cuzco on 18 June 1878, to work on David Syme's Illustrated Australian News. His decision to migrate was seemingly dictated by a lifelong asthmatic condition. In 1881 he joined the Melbourne-based Australasian Sketcher and in 1883 moved to Sydney to work on the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia: until 1886 he travelled extensively throughout Australia drawing points of interest; he also drew for the Bulletin.

In 1886 Ashton began to teach privately. In 1892-95 he conducted classes at the Art Society of New South Wales of which he had been president in 1887-92. Artistic professionalism was a vexed question and in 1895 Ashton joined a new professional body, the Society of Artists, Sydney. Sacked from his teaching position, he established his own school in King Street, moved it to the Queen Victoria Markets in 1906 and renamed it the Sydney Art School. In George Street from 1935 it became the Julian Ashton School and always enjoyed a considerable reputation: among his students were George Lambert, Elioth Gruner, Jesse Hilder, Thea Proctor, Sydney Ure Smith, William Dobell, Jean Bellette and D. Dundas.

His wife Eliza had literary and musical interests and was a social

Sydney

Roberts returned to Sydney with Streeton in the early 1890s, lured away from the economically depressed Melbourne by the possibility of new opportunities in the harbourside city. They had heard the news of a generous annual watercolour prize for scenes of New South Wales. They first set up camp at Mosman Bay, one of the small coves on the harbour. Curlew Camp, where they finally settled, was just around the point from the Mosman ferry, giving them easy access to the city.

 

Equally well known was Curlew Camp, on the eastern shore of Little Sirius Cove, below today's Taronga Zoo. This had been set up by the Oxford Street businessman Reuben Brasch and his family, who came to stay at the camp by boat, crossing the harbour from Parsley Bay.

The Melbourne painters Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton moved to Sydney in the early 1890s, looking for wider opportunities to sell their work. Both spent considerable periods at Curlew and the paintings they did at this time, of Sydney Harbour, Mosman Bay and nearby Cremorne Point, are among the acknowledged masterpieces of Australian art.

Curlew was a well established camp, with many home comforts, including a billiards tent. Residents combined to pay a cook, and there was a youth to take care of odd jobs. Arthur Streeton described life there in evocative letters. His friend the composer George Marshall-Hall, visiting from Melbourne, was inspired by the harbour setting to write his 'Hymn to Sydney', which began:

City of laughing loveliness! Sun-girdled Queen!
Crowned with imperial morning, bejewelled with joy [2]

The art patron Howard Hinton, a frequent visitor, came to know Roberts, Streeton and other painters at the camp. Some of the works he bought from them were donated to the Art Gallery of New South Wales and many became part of the Hinton collection at the Armidale Teachers' College. They can now be seen at the New England Regional Art Museum.

Sydney became Streeton’s subject. The bravura of his crisp brushwork and his trademark blue, the blue that he had used at Heidelberg, were perfectly suited to registering images of the bustling activity on Sydney’s blue harbour. Diagonal strokes of deeper pigment sweep across the blue of the water in Streeton’s The Point Wharf, Mosman Bay, 1893, suggesting the shadows cast by the gentle movement of the water. The light reflecting off the sun-bleached sandstone on the shore is translated into passages of golden yellow pigment over the blue of the water. The ferry, belching rosy smoke from its funnel, signals the energy and activity of the harbour. Strokes of pigment have been applied rapidly, the shifting image of water and light fixed on the canvas with assurance and an economy of means.

 

Streeton responded to the different moods of the harbour. His panoramic The three liners, 1893, shows the harbour on a grey day. With the immediacy of a snapshot, Streeton has captured a moment in the life of the harbour. Small craft can be seen making their way through the swell while behind them the three impressive liners sit quietly at Circular Quay. The rise and fall of the water is suggested by the lines Streeton scratched into the pigment with the end of his brush. Behind all the activity on the water sits the dark form of the city.

Much of Roberts’s time in Sydney was devoted to portraiture and he did not paint as many harbour views as his friend Streeton. One of his harbour pictures is Mosman’s Bay, 1894, a painting in which Roberts portrays the site near their camp as the setting for city dwellers to enjoy the leisure time activities of boating, strolling by the water’s edge and enjoying afternoon tea at Lewis’s Refreshment rooms, situated on the jetty

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