Sydney Times


Escape into the world of Australia’s iconic impressionist, Arthur Streeton

Escape into the world of Australia’s iconic impressionist, Arthur Streeton

Tuesday 1 September 2020
Arthur Streeton Land of the Golden Fleece 1926. Private collection, Sydney. Photo: Jenni Carter, AGNSW

Escape into the world of Australia’s iconic impressionist, Arthur Streeton


7 Nov 2020 – 14 Feb 2021

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is very proud to present Streeton, a landmark exhibition of Australia’s iconic impressionist, Arthur Streeton, whose brilliant evocations of light, land and sea captured the spirit and optimism of our country.

Featuring more than 150 paintings, drawings and watercolours from 42 public and private collections, some not exhibited publicly for more than 100 years, Streeton is an in-depth survey of the artist’s unique contribution to Australian art from the 1880s to the 1940s.

Art Gallery of NSW director Dr Michael Brand said the expansive exhibition is the most significant retrospective of Streeton’s work ever held.

“Arthur Streeton is undeniably our greatest impressionist landscape painter, and one who worked from a decidedly international perspective. This exhibition reveals the seminal role he played in defining a unique vision of Australia, while exploring the evolution of his art over six decades,” Brand said.

“Streeton’s poetic and technically brilliant impressionist paintings were made during vivid periods of joy and periods of duress: from abundance and economic boom to drought, bushfire and war. These timeless works have enduring relevance as we navigate the extraordinary events of our own time.”

Two years in preparation, Streeton brings together sun-drenched impressionist landscapes from the 1880s, joyful depictions of Sydney Harbour in the 1890s, pastoral paintings from the 1920s and 30s, and a selection of artworks from the artist’s international career painting in Egypt, England, Italy and WWI France.

The first Streeton exhibition in quarter of a century and the most comprehensive since his 1931 lifetime retrospective at the Art Gallery of NSW, Streeton presents works from museums and galleries around Australia alongside paintings from the Gallery’s extensive collection and rarely seen works from private collections, including Settler’s camp 1888, The blue Pacific 1890, The centre of the Empire 1902, the recently rediscovered The Grand Canal 1908, and Land of the Golden Fleece 1926.

Exhibition curator and Art Gallery of NSW head curator of Australian art Wayne Tunnicliffe said Streeton is a revealing study of the artist’s life and art.

“Arthur Streeton was a sensitive and deeply romantic bohemian who eventually became one of the most commercially successful and popular artists of his generation. Along with artist friends and peers, including Tom Roberts and Charles Conder, Streeton developed an Australian version of impressionism, the new art movement embraced by more radical artists around the world in the 1880s,” said Tunnicliffe.

“This exhibition presents his famous plein-air oil paintings of the 1880 and 90s, alongside a selection of lesser known works painted in England and Europe which show how Streeton continually adapted his style to the genius loci of the land and cities he depicted. This was even more evident in Australia in the 1920s when he painted his great pastoral works, including Land of the Golden Fleece 1926, as well as images of modern Sydney and intimate domestic scenes of his homes and gardens.”

“Most remarkable for his time, Streeton became a passionate environmentalist who published extensively from the late 1920s on conservation and urban planning issues and exhibited thought-provoking works depicting damage to the natural world. A century later, his predictions of environmental destruction at the hands of humans are as relevant now as when they were painted.”

The richly illustrated book, Streeton, has been published by the Art Gallery of NSW and Thames & Hudson Australia in conjunction with the exhibition and includes new writing by Wayne Tunnicliffe and specialist writers including Roger Benjamin, Tim Bonyhady, Jane Clark, Allison Goudie, Anne Gray, Emma Kindred, Andrew Yip, and Gallery staff Paula Dredge, Hannah Hutchison, Simon Ives, Denise Mimmocchi and Nick Yelverton.

Streeton is supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said Streeton is a wonderful opportunity to rediscover the art that shaped our nation, while exploring and supporting Australia’s cultural capital.

Streeton is a must-see for lovers of Australian spirit, land and history. The exhibition is a unique opportunity to see the beauty of New South Wales through the artist’s lens as some of his greatest works were painted in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury,” Mr Ayres said.

Tickets for the Streeton exhibition are now available at the Gallery website. The Gallery will continue to be guided by the NSW Government’s health guidelines and updates will be provided on the website.


For more information, please visit our website.


Join the conversation #streeton #ilovesydney #LoveNSW



Arthur Streeton The purple noon’s transparent might 1896, oil on canvas, 123 x 123 cm, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, purchased 1896, 33-2. Photo: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Arthur Streeton Biography

One of Australia’s best known and most influential landscape painters, Arthur Streeton was a key participant in the development of Australian impressionism – often considered the first distinctively Australian school of painting. For many people, Streeton’s paintings defined a unique image of this country. He spent much of the early 20th century in Europe and served as war artist during the First World War, but later returned to Australia, where he also worked as an art critic.

Streeton received little formal training in art beyond evening classes in drawing at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School in Melbourne from 1882 to 1888, but his career developed after he met fellow artists Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin. Painting in the open air in Melbourne and nearby at Mentone and Box Hill, they worked on representing Australia’s light, heat, space and distance. Streeton established an artists’ camp in 1888 at Heidelberg on the outskirts of Melbourne which became synonymous with Australian impressionism.

In 1889 Streeton was a key contributor, with Roberts, Charles Conder, McCubbin and others, to The 9 by 5 impression exhibition in Melbourne, which consisted of impressions of bush and city life rapidly painted on cigar box lids or small pieces of cardboard – including The national game 1889 and A road to the ranges 1889. Scorned by conservative critics, this ground-breaking show reinforced the group’s claim that they were creating a new type of art in Australia.

After the Art Gallery of New South Wales bought his painting Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide 1890, Streeton came to Sydney in the early 1890s where he painted views of the city, harbour and beaches and lived at an artists’ camp in Mosman, producing works such as The blue Pacific 1890 and From my camp (Sirius Cove) 1896. In search of more distinctive scenes, he travelled to the Blue Mountains, the Hawkesbury River and regional NSW. From 1890, his paintings became increasingly large and ambitious and it was during this period that he painted perhaps his greatest evocation of the country’s light, heat and dust – Fire’s on 1891. His growing critical success culminated in a solo exhibition in Melbourne in 1896 which includes his great Hawkesbury River painting The purple noon’s transparent might 1896.

Streeton travelled to London via Cairo in 1897, where he lived for the next two decades, with occasional return visits to Australia where he exhibited to considerable critical and financial success. Enlisting in the Australian army medical corps in 1915, he was appointed an official war artist in 1918. In paintings such as Villers-Bretonneux 1918, he documented the Western Front, focusing on the devastated terrain rather than the drama of human suffering. Returning to Victoria permanently in 1923, Streeton painted expansive landscape views including the three versions of Land of the Golden Fleece in 1926, which were embraced by critics as representing a national identity in art.

Concurrently, Streeton campaigned for preserving Australia’s native forests from logging and painted large scale works like The vanishing forest 1934 to warn of the irrevocable damage being done to the environment. Streeton won the Wynne Prize in 1928 for Afternoon light, Goulburn Valley, Victoria 1927, and in 1929 became art critic for the newspaper The Argus. He was knighted in 1937 and died at his property in Olinda, Victoria, in 1943.


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