Golden Summer, Eaglemont

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Golden Summer, Eaglemont
Arthur Streeton - Golden summer, Eaglemont - Google Art Project.jpg
Artist Arthur Streeton
Year 1889
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 81.3 cm × 152.6 cm (32.01 in × 60.08 in)
Location National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Golden Summer, Eaglemont is an 1889 landscape painting by Australian artist Arthur Streeton. Painted en plein air at the height of a summer drought, it is an idyllic depiction of sunlit, undulating plains that stretch from Streeton's Eaglemont "artists' camp" to the distant blue Dandenong Ranges, outside Melbourne. Naturalistic yet poetic, and a conscious effort by the 21-year-old Streeton to create his grandest work yet, it is a prime example of the artist's distinctive, high-keyed blue and gold palette, what he considered "nature's scheme of colour in Australia".

The National Gallery of Australia acquired the painting in 1995 for $3.5 million, then a record price for an Australian painting. It remains one of Streeton's most famous works and is considered a masterpiece of Australian Impressionism.

Background

Louis Buvelot's 1866 painting Summer Afternoon, Templestowe (National Gallery of Victoria) inspired Streeton to visit Eaglemont
Streeton's Impression for Golden Summer (1888, Benalla Art Gallery) formed part of the 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition of 1889
Conder's 9 by 5 work Impressionists' Camp (1889, National Gallery of Australia) shows Streeton and Roberts inside the Eaglemont homestead. Streeton's Impression for Golden Summer hangs on the wall.

Streeton painted the work en plein air in January 1889 at his Eaglemont "artists' camp", which was then located in the rural suburb of Heidelberg on Melbourne's outskirts. He passed through the area in late 1888 in search of the site depicted in one of his favourite paintings, Louis Buvelot's Summer Afternoon, Templestowe (1866). On his return journey, he met Charles Davis—brother-in-law of painter and friend David Davies—who granted him "artistic possession" of an old weatherboard homestead atop Mount Eagle. Streeton occupied the homestead over the next eighteen months with fellow plein airists Charles Conder and Tom Roberts joining him for extended periods, and less frequently other artists, notably Walter Withers.

Streeton described the location in a letter to Roberts, calling it "our hill of gold":[1]

I sit here in the upper circle surrounded by copper and gold, and smile with joy under my fly net as all the light, glory and quivering brightness passes slowly and freely before my eyes. Nothing happier than this. I shout and laugh at my immense wealth, all free and without responsibility. Who could steal this from me? No one.

Years later, Streeton recalled painting Golden Summer as he, Conder, and John Ford Paterson shared cheese and a bottle of claret.[2] John Sandes, a journalist who often visited the Eaglemont camp, wrote in 1927:[3]

[Streeton] would go off by himself with his easel and canvas and would lie on the grass for hours, wearing only shirt and trousers, and staring at the sky and at the river in the valley, and at the Dandenong Ranges. ... Then he would get up and paint with strong, sure strokes, and the thing would grow into beauty as you stole up and watched over his shoulder. That is how he painted Golden Summer while I looked over his shoulder—40 years ago.

Exhibition and reception

The so-called "impressionist school" at Heidelberg has done some good after all.

— The Colac Herald, 1891, after London's Royal Academy selected Golden Summer, Eaglemont[4]

Table Talk reported in May 1889 that Golden Summer, Eaglemont "abundantly testifies to [Streeton's] perfect sense of colour ... He paints summer effects as if he loved the country."[5] When the painting appeared at the Victorian Artists Society's 1889 winter show, leading critic James Smith, while opposed to what he called "the impressionist fad", said Golden Summer "is the best example of this class of work in the exhibition."[6]

Conder took Golden Summer, Eaglemont to London in April 1890, where, the following year as Golden Summer, Australia, it became the first painting by an Australian-born artist to be exhibited at the Royal Academy. In 1892, it appeared at the Paris Salon, and won an award. One critic noted the popularity of Golden Summer with "the crowds that throng the Salon", saying that it was "simply impossible" to pass by the painting "as it is utterly different from any other picture in the vast collection".[7] Likewise, Australian artist John Longstaff, then based in Paris, said the painting "created quite a sensation and stood out in oneness and quality all through everything else on the walls."[5]

Provenance

Scottish shipbuilder Charles Mitchell purchased Golden Summer, Eaglemont on the opening day of the 1892 Paris Salon. In 1898, it appeared at the Exhibition of Australian Art in London. It remained part of Mitchell's estate until Streeton re-acquired the painting from the shipbuilder's widow in 1919.

Ahead of its public auction in Australia in 1924, Lionel Lindsay extolled the work in the hope that it would enter a public gallery:[8]

This tranquil landscape, so simply yet so exquisitely fashioned, possesses for Australians a sentiment no other people may equally enjoy. It is the first great Australian landscape, untrammeled by picture making formula, to come from the hand of the native born. It is, therefore, historically the most important landscape in Australia.

A private collector acquired it for 1,000 guineas, then a record for a painting by an Australian artist. Streeton used the money to commission an architect to design and build 'Longacres', a new house and studio in Olinda, outside Melbourne.[9] Golden Summer broke the same sales record in 1995 when the National Gallery of Australia purchased it for $3.5 million.[10] The record has been broken several times since, most recently in 2010 when the Art Gallery of New South Wales purchased Sidney Nolan's First-class Marksman (1946) for $5.4 million.

References

  1. ^ Lane, Terrace (2007). "Chapter 8: Painting on the Hill of Gold: Heidelberg 1888–90". In Lane, Terrace (ed.). Australian Impressionism. National Gallery of Victoria. pp. 123–127. ISBN 0724102817.
  2. ^ "Australian Art: Mr Streeton's Return: Memories of Heidelberg" (3 February 1922), The Argus. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  3. ^ Sandes, John (2 April 1927). "An Artist's Golden Summer". Smith's Weekly. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Melbourne". The Colac Herald. 29 May 1891. p. 3. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  5. ^ a b Clark, Jane (1985). "Heidelberg Summers". In Ryan, Judith. Golden Summers: Heidelberg and Beyond. International Cultural Corporation of Australia. pp. 104–105. ISBN 0-642-09855-7.
  6. ^ "The Winter Exhibition of the Victorian Artists' Society". The Argus. 4 May 1889. p. 12. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  7. ^ "The Australian Artists in Paris" (17 August 1892), The Argus. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  8. ^ Lindsay, Lionel (28 November 1923). "Golden Summer: Streeton's Masterpiece", Evening News. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  9. ^ James, Rodney (2 November 2017). "Arthur Streeton", Menzies Art Brands. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  10. ^ Maher, Louise (4 July 2017). "Arthur Streeton's impressionist masterpiece Golden Summer, Eaglemont back on show at NGA". ABC News. Retrieved 1 August 2018.

External links

Golden Summer, Eaglemont at the National Gallery of Australia

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