Born west of Geelong in 1867, Arthur Streeton’s only professional training was at the National Gallery of Victoria. He began painting city life in Sydney, then moved further afield to paint the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury river regions. He had a brilliant ability to inject light and space into his work, creating paintings that captured the true essence of the Australian landscape. He was an artist influenced by French Impressionism, but also deeply inspired by the painters he befriended throughout his life.
Arthur Streeton found solace and inspiration near Heidelberg in Victoria. A friend let him to stay in an abandoned home on the summit of Mount Eagle and from here he looked out over stunning views of the Yarra Valley, to the Dandenongs. It proved to be the perfect landscape for his painting escapades. Living out what would seem to be a dream for any artist, it’s said that Arthur would head off into the bush everyday, with a handful of paint and canvasses, and a billycan of milk.
(Above: Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide, 1890, Art Gallery of New South Wales )
Famous painters, and fellow members of the Heidelberg School of Arts, Tom Roberts and Charles Condor later joined him and together this trio painted and lived on this modest property, surrounded by the stunning scenery of the Australian outback.
In 1889 Streeton joined forces with his friends Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts and Charles Condor in an exhibition of impressionism, particularly interesting, because many of the works were painted on cigar boxes as well as on board, canvas and some sculptured panels of wax and bronze.
My favourite Arthur Streeton work is A Surveyor’s Camp, painted in 1896. It’s believed to be a representation of a surveying expedition in Richmond near the Hawkesbury River. This watercolour captures Streeton’s signature use of light and space, illustrating a detailed vision of the Australian bush.
Arthur Streeton travelled extensively through Europe, as well as to Cairo although surprisingly, wasn’t as successful in the Northern Hemisphere as he was in Australia. Later he joined the army and became the first official Australian war artist. True to his passion, he preferred to paint the landscapes of The Great War, rather than the painful suffering the men endured.
After he returned from war, Arthur Streeton continued to paint in and around the Dandenong Ranges. Upon being knighted, he became ‘Sir Arthur Ernest Streeton’, rewarded for his contribution to the arts. He died on his property in Victoria in 1943, but left a legacy of beautiful art that appears in museums and galleries across Australia.