I spent a couple of days hiking around Melbourne, seeing and learning as much as I could about the city and its history. On the second day of my wandering, I found myself captivated by the National Gallery of Victoria. I go into some detail in my book about the history and development of painting in Australia, so I won’t go over all that here, but I did want to share more about the paintings that were my favorites—the works of the Australian Impressionists. This group was also known as the Heidelberg School, after a region where the painters loved to camp and paint the countryside and light that had so entranced them. These were the first artists to really capture Australia on canvas—the beauty, the hardships, the magical light, the openness, the strangeness, the wonder.
Though many would follow, the four founders of this school were Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, and Charles Conder. Their images have become iconic, reflecting the history, the life, and the reality of Australia. They may have been impressionists, but they captured their subjects more truly than those who had tried to use more traditional art styles.
To avoid the legal issues involved in trying to pick up images that hang in museums or other private collections, I’m just going to give you links. There are a few articles, should you wish to read more, but there are also a lot of these men’s paintings, so you can get a taste of what their work was like. I left the gallery at the end of the day almost feeling as if I’d spent a day out bush.
Australian Impressionism, overview with paintings.
Paintings and where they were painted, from the National Gallery of Victoria.
Tom Roberts, paintings.
Frederick McCubbin, paintings.
Arthur Streeton, paintings.
Charles Conder, painting.