Sunshine, that’s what springs to mind when you think of Australia. Fog is the first thing that you see depicted when you enter the Australia’s Impressionists exhibition at the National Gallery. Not any kind of fog but London fog. For that is where the painters came to learn their trade.
Once back in Australia the lessons learnt in Europe fused with a rapidly changing country. For the first time since European settlement, more of the population were Australian-born than immigrant and all those people were settling in rapidly growing cities. Three artists, Tom Roberts, Charles Conder and Arthur Streeton, staged the ‘9 by 5 Impression Exhibition’; so named because many of the pictures were painted on cigar box lids which happened to measure 9 x 5 inches.
There are over one hundred beaches in Sydney giving Australia’s Impressionists a wide choice of seaside locations in which to paint. Charles Conder was the first to return home and he discovered Coogee Beach. When Tom Roberts came back, Charles Conder took him to Coogee and he in turn took Arthur Streeton. All three painted there and their impressions can be seen at the National Gallery.
Not all of Australia’s Impressionists returned home, John Russell stayed in Europe and painted vibrant images of France and Italy. I especially liked these seascapes of Belle Ile in Brittany.
Australia’s Impressionists offers a glimpse into the artistic world of a nation just emerging as a stand-alone state not just as a series of picturesque locations but in what was a new way of painting and showing the building of railways and the like, as well as pretty beaches.
Once you have seen the exhibition, the National Gallery has many options for a cup of coffee, my favourite is the Expresso Bar in the basement which has interactive screens that allow you to explore the collection and find out more about the paintings you like best.
AUSTALIA’S IMPRESSIONISTS at the National Gallery
7 December 2016 – 26 March 2017
Open: Daily 10am – 6pm (9pm on Friday)
Admission: £7.50 concessions available, children under 12 free