Sunday, May 08, 2011

Australian Impressionists

Its been a quiet weekend - except for Mother's Day with Sue enjoying lunch with her two boys, well men really these days (they are in their 20s). Reading through some posts of other bloggers over the weekend, it sparked a subject that I've lightly touched on in the past.
Impressionism. A style of painting that emerged out of Europe, and France in particular was an influence to some of our local artists.

Arthur Streeton - Hoddle Street

Arthur Streeton

Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Walter Withers, Fred McCubbin and Charles Conder are some of the artists that I'm more familiar with. Up at the Paris end of Collins street Melbourne in the 1880s were the studios of Roberts and Streeton. Needing to get out of the studio and into the environment, these artists initially travelled to our suburb of Mentone to paint. It was the summer of 1886 when Arthur Streeton met Tom Roberts at Mentone.
Later they established Artist's Camps in the northern hill area of Heidelberg, about 10 km or more from the Melbourne CBD. These camps evolved into what is now known as the Heidelberg School of Artists, our Australian Impressionists.

Charles Conder - Blossom

Charles Conder - Going Home

Charles Conder

Tom Roberts - Mentone Beach

The infamous 9 x 5 Impressionist's Exhibition 1889

Poster advertising the 9 x 5 Exhibition

The Buxton Rooms in Swanston Street where the 9 x 5 Exhibition was held.
 Their early exhibition held in Swanton Street Melbourne in August, 1889 was not that well received especially by one art critic who wrote a fairly negative critique in the Argus newspaper.

The modern impressionist asks you to see pictures in splashes of colours, in slap-dash brushwork, and in sleight-of-hand methods of execution leading to the proposition of pictorial conundrums, which would baffle solution if there were no label or catalogue. In an exhibition of paintings you naturally look for pictures, instead of which the impressionist presents you with a varied assortment of palettes. Of the 180 exhibits catalogued on the present occasion, something like four-fifths are a pain the eye. Some of them look like faded pictures seen through several mediums of thick gauze; others suggest that a paint-pot has been accidentally upset over a panel of nine inches by five; others resemble the first essays of a small boy, who has just been apprenticed to a house-painter.

James Smith, Argus, 17 August 1889

Charles Conder 9 x 5 painting with the typical wood framing.
 The exhibition became described as the 9 x 5 Exhibition. It took its name from the fact that all the paintings were based on the panels of a cigar box. Of the paintings on show at the exhibition, about one third still exist in public collections. In 2009, one of Charles Condor's 9 x 5s sold at Southerby's for just under $500,000. Not bad for a painting at an exhibition that was lampooned by a newspaper art critic.

Tom Roberts - By the Treasury

Arthur Streeton - Burke & Wills statue near Princess Theatre

Arthur Streeton - Residence of J Walker

Maybe I'll follow up with more specific Australian Impressionist posts in the future.


  1. There is not one of these pictures that I do not like. Great choice. Diane

  2. I love the Australian Impressionist's work and especially that beautiful painting by Charles Condor "Going Home" - they are all delightful!

  3. I'm a fan of impressionism and enjoyed seeing artists I wasn't familiar with. Thanks

  4. Diane with one N, I'm pleased that you like our Australian Impressionists - a few went to France to paint after 1890. Maybe I'll do a follow up soon.

  5. Dianne with two Ns, Chas Conder is one of my faves as well - more on him later.

  6. Craig - Sue and I've been to Musee d'Orsay twice now and I think a third visit would offer further enjoyment. I'm with you on Impressionism.

  7. Hahaha! When you said you were going to introduce me to some Australian artists, I took the comment literally and envisioned a picnic lunch of takeaway Thai, Australian wine, and lively conversation! Thanks so for the info and for sharing the paintings from Mentone with your Yank cousin.

  8. Mitchell! How goes it? I so miss you all.


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