I’ve posted previously about Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira and his remarkable, evocative work, and I mention him as well in my book, Waltzing Australia. I had seen his work even before my first trip to Australia, when, in addition to seeing more of his paintings, I also visited some of the sites Namatjira had painted. But I hadn’t encountered any information on how he learned to paint.
Because he too loves the Outback, I follow the blog of Bobby Dazzler, who does a nice job of highlighting iconic elements of the “back o’ beyond.” His most recent post is about Rex Battarbee, the artist who taught Namatjira. I can only imagine how delighted Battarbee must have been to find so gifted a student. Anyway, if you’re interested in Namatjira and would like to read the article, you can find it here: https://dazzlerplus.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/rex-and-albert/
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.
National Gallery of Victoria