22 episodes

Audio guide for twenty two key works from the 2007 25th anniversary of the National Gallery of Australia exhibition 'Ocean to Outback: Australian Landscape Painting 1850–1950' curated by National Gallery Director, Ron Radford AM and celebrates the rich history of landscape painting in Australia.

National Gallery of Australia | Audio Tour | Ocean to Outback: Australian Landscape Painting 1850–1950 National Gallery of Australia

    • Visual Arts

Audio guide for twenty two key works from the 2007 25th anniversary of the National Gallery of Australia exhibition 'Ocean to Outback: Australian Landscape Painting 1850–1950' curated by National Gallery Director, Ron Radford AM and celebrates the rich history of landscape painting in Australia.

    Elise BLUMANN, Storm on the Swan 1946

    Elise BLUMANN, Storm on the Swan 1946

    Elise Blumann painted Perth’s Swan River and the native melaleuca trees of the region many times. Escaping the Nazi regime that devastated much of Europe, German-born Blumann came to Perth with her husband and two children in 1938. Educated at the Berlin Academy of Arts and the Royal Art School Berlin, Blumann was familiar with the modern art of the German Expressionists, Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky and Chagall. In Australia Blumann’s painting was unconventional, however her peers regarded her as a valued member of Perth’s artistic community.

    In Storm on the Swan Blumann uses broad sweeping gestures – strong horizontal and diagonal brushwork – to capture the power of a storm. Wind and rain beat against the limbs of the trees which appear to almost float in space. This dynamic and sensitive composition displays Blumann’s modern approach to her art and her desire to capture the ‘essential spirit’ of nature.1 Areas of the painting’s surface are blank, while others are scratched with the end of her brush to indicate sharp, fast, rain. This is a vigorous, physical and quickly executed work, a powerful response to the speed in which a storm can approach and pass.

    1 John Scott & Richard Woldendorp,Landscapes of Western Australia, Claremont, Western Australia: Aeolian Press, 1986, p. 17.

    • 1 min
    Tom ROBERTS, A Sunday afternoon [A Sunday afternoon picnic at Box Hill] c.1886

    Tom ROBERTS, A Sunday afternoon [A Sunday afternoon picnic at Box Hill] c.1886

    By 1882 a railway had been constructed between Melbourne and the township of Box Hill, and in 1885 Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and Louis Abrahams first visited the area to paint. The artists set up camp on land owned by a local farmer and friend to the artists, David Houston.1 Along with other artists, including Arthur Streeton and Jane Sutherland, the group painted the local bushland. Roberts made a number of works in this area, such as his well known The artist’s camp 1886, while Streeton painted Evening with bathers 1888 (both in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne).

    In A Sunday afternoon Roberts depicts an intimate picnic. Framed by spindly gums and bathed in dappled light, a young couple relax in the bush, the woman reading to her companion from a newspaper. A belief in the health benefits of the country air was becoming popular with city dwellers who sought recreational activities in the bush or by the ocean. Roberts’s observant eye has resulted in such small details in this scene as the trail of smoke from the man’s pipe, the dark wine bottle on the crisp white cloth and the light falling softly on the leaves of the eucalypts.

    1 Leigh Astbury, ‘Memory and desire: Box Hill 1855–88’, in Terence Lane (ed.), Australian impressionism, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2007, p. 51.

    • 1 min
    Eugene VON GUERARD, Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges 1857

    Eugene VON GUERARD, Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges 1857

    For German-born artist Eugene von Guérard the Australian landscape represented a real, lived experience and a vehicle for evoking personal and contemplative ideas. His remarkable image of a fern-tree gully in the Dandenong Ranges, some 40 kilometres east of Melbourne, conveys a sense of the landscape as a spiritual sanctuary. In this painting von Guérard showed the landscape as a rejuvenating life force, untainted by human interference. When he first visited the Dandenong Ranges the area was a dense bushland of temperate rainforests and cool fern gullies. We know from sketchbooks held in the collection of the Dixson Galleries, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, that von Guérard visited the region twice between 1855 and 1857 and again in 1858.1 The pages of these books contain a number of drawings which document the lush and largely unexplored forests. This natural resource of high-quality timber was rapidly logged for the growing industries and settlement in Victoria.

    Painted on return to the artist’s Melbourne studio, Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges is a work that combines von Guérard’s meticulous observation of local plant species with his artistic interest in compositional arrangement and the creation of a ‘mood’ particular to this environment. In this case we are privy to the magical world of a bower – an enclosed gully of natural foliage created by towering tree ferns. A pool of light on the forest floor leads us to two male lyrebirds cast in shadow, one with its characteristic tail feathers raised – a natural mimic of the arch of the fern fronds. The theatrical activities of the lyrebird were one of the early drawcards for tourists to the area, who hoped to witness the singing and dancing of the male bird.

    Von Guérard’s painting received much positive acclaim in the Melbourne newspapers and a few years after the work was completed, ‘fern tree gully’, located close to the Fern Tree Gully Hotel, became a popular tourist destination, especially during the summer months. The residents of Melbourne sought the sanctuary of the cool green gullies and active birdlife for their leisure. The work was exhibited at the 1862 International exhibition in London where it was noted as an example of the natural beauty and scenery of the colony.

    1 Tim Bonyhady, Australian colonial paintings in the Australian National Gallery, Canberra: Australian National Gallery, 1986, p. 171.

    • 2 min
    Margaret PRESTON, Flying over the Shoalhaven River [Flying over the Shoalhaven] 1942

    Margaret PRESTON, Flying over the Shoalhaven River [Flying over the Shoalhaven] 1942

    Margaret Preston was used to seeing the earth from the air. By 1942 the artist had visited Europe and North America, and had travelled extensively throughout much of Asia, the Pacific Islands, Central and South America and Australia. During her travels she visited many places and sought out the Indigenous art of other cultures, yet it was the Indigenous art of Australia that inspired her most. Preston travelled extensively throughout remote areas of Australia to see Indigenous paintings and carvings. She studied the collections at the Australian Museum in Sydney and published articles and lectured on Indigenous art.

    From 1932 to 1939 Preston lived in the bush at Berowra, close to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park north of Sydney, where her great passion for the natural environment of Australia was reinforced. During the Second World War, Preston, like many others, developed a strong nationalist sentiment and in 1942 published an article titled ‘The orientation of art in the post-war Pacific’. In this article she argued for the development of a ‘National Australian Culture’ through an exchange of ideas between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists. She also suggested that Australians should actively exchange ideas with their Asian neighbours.

    In Flying over the Shoalhaven River Preston combined her knowledge of Indigenous Australian, Asian and western art with a modernist aesthetic. The linear quality of the composition and the flattened areas of colour reflect her skills in woodblock printmaking. Using an earthy palette of browns, greys and ochres, Preston suggested the bush with dabs and dots of paint. She mirrored the overcast sky in the silvery stretch of river and depicted a number of low-lying clouds casting shadows on the earth. While the aerial perspective displays Preston’s knowledge of Indigenous Australian and Chinese methods of representing the land from above, the experience of flying over the Shoalhaven River was her own.

    • 2 min
    Elioth GRUNER, Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra 1934

    Elioth GRUNER, Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra 1934

    In 1934 Elioth Gruner made one of several visits to the Canberra region where he painted Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra. In 1928 Gruner had purchased a car, which gave him the means to travel throughout the countryside on painting trips. He first visited Yass and Canberra in 1929 and was impressed by the crisp, clear light of the area. Over the next ten years he returned several times and completed some of his major late works in the district.

    Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra is an arrangement of several views looking south-west from Canberra towards the Tidbinbilla and Brindabella ranges. While there are no Murrumbidgee Ranges as such, the Murrumbidgee River runs between Canberra and the Tidbinbilla Range. Gruner would have painted this work outdoors, and possibly in one sitting. Through his use of colour he has captured the sharp light of the Canberra region and the cool velvety softness of the surrounding mountains. He has also depicted signs of settlement, including sheep grazing quietly near the ‘bush capital’, distant trails of smoke and a car heading west towards the Murrumbidgee River.

    Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra was awarded the 1934 Wynne Prize for landscape painting at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Indeed, Gruner won the prize seven times between 1916 and 1937. In 1937 Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra was exhibited in London in the Artists of the British Empire overseas exhibition at the Royal British Colonial Society of Artists.

    • 1 min
    Frederick MCCUBBIN, Girl in forest, Mount Macedon [(Landscape with child) (Mount Macedon landscape with girl)] 1913

    Frederick MCCUBBIN, Girl in forest, Mount Macedon [(Landscape with child) (Mount Macedon landscape with girl)] 1913

    In Girl in forest, Mount Macedon Frederick McCubbin revisits a central theme in his oeuvre: the activities of children in the Australian bush. He had previously painted scenes of children lost in the bush – narratives of innocence and vulnerability within the landscape. McCubbin also explored the magical worlds invented by children through storytelling and imagination. In works such as What the little girl saw in the bush 1904 (private collection, reproduced p. 28) he sought to capture ideas of creative freedom and expression that children unselfconsciously bring to their surrounds.

    In Girl in forest, Mount Macedon a young girl wanders through the bush carrying a basket, possibly collecting wildflowers or berries. She is small beside the large trees and thick growth, her white dress setting her apart from her environment. McCubbin has paid close attention to the study of dappled light through trees and foliage. Areas of the canvas appear abstracted and flecks of colour are layered over each other using a palette knife. Moving back from the work the scene comes into focus – a glorious image of gold, pink and violet; bracken, bark and gum.

    Girl in forest, Mount Macedon depicts the bush close to ‘Fontainebleau’, the McCubbin’s residence at Mount Macedon about 60 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. The child in the image is the artist’s youngest daughter, Kathleen, who posed for her father numerous times.

    • 1 min

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