25 May 2024

Arthur Streeton's landscapes: 1930s.

Geelong lad Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) studied at the Nat­ional Gallery School of Art in Melbourne from 1884-7. In summer 1886 he painted with Frederick McCubbin and Tom Roberts in Mentone. In 1887 he camped and painted with Louis Abrahams, Tom Roberts and Frederick Mc­Cub­bin on a rural property in Heidelberg. Thus The Heidelberg School of Art name.

Golden Summer Eaglemont, 1889

Timing for the Heidelberg landscape artists was perfect. With growing nation­alism and a push towards Federation, Australia was rapidly moving away from its colonial history. Artists and writers were searching for colours, landscapes, char­act­ers and weather that were uniquely Aust­ral­ian. Golden Summer, Eaglemont 1889 was painted during a hot leisurely summer, an epic work with gum trees.

Federation was not formally proclaimed in Australia until 1/1/1901, but the seductive lure of London and Paris was already calling artists “home” to Europe’s cultural capitals. In 1897 Streeton sailed for London where was a huge excitement in living in London & Paris, but there was also a cost. Australian artists in Europe were out of contact with the land that had inspired them for 20 years and the cities that had nurtured them. As beautiful as the Normandy coast might have been, for example, it was not the Grampians and it was not Sydney Harbour.

So Streeton returned to Australia several times from 1906 on and re-en­gaged with the Aus­tralian landscape. During WW1 Streeton joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and worked at the 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth. He ret­urned permanently to Aus­tr­alia in 1920.

Geelong Gallery showed the Land of the Golden Fleece; Arthur Streeton in the Western District. It was a major exhibition of 30 land­scapes in Victoria’s Western District and in those coastal areas he freq­uented eg Lorne. In his works Streeton painted outside in a count­ry rich in earth and sky, a land of possibility. Even after WW1 Streeton still regarded the Australian land as a symbol of national pride,
prosperity and identity.

A Southern View Olinda, 1933  

When Streeton bought 5 acres of land at Olinda in Melbourne’s Dandenong Ranges in 1921, he probably didn’t know how important it would become in his life and art. He built Longacres in 1924, with ex­tensive flower gardens and surr­ounding hills. Olinda became the set­ting for Streeton to consol­idate his impressionist skills with colour and light, and to find ways of representing the Australian landscape.

Over a decade, the Streetons travelled between The Grange in suburban Toorak and Longacres in rural Olinda. Afternoon Sky at Ol­in­da c1934 was painted in Longacres, surrounded by hillsides and long vistas. The painting’s smallish size sugg­ested he wanted a close-up section of the left-hand side of his largest Dand­en­ong Range subjects, A Southern View Olinda 1933. The painting show­ed how warm, late sunlight played over the landscape, a painting he successfully exhib­ited at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Gallery in Aug 1933.

Menzies said Streeton was a master of record­ing the intersection between land and sky, and the visual effects cr­eat­ed by passing cl­ouds. In Afternoon Sky, he focused on a small land­scape, the incline of a cleared, sunny, open field, contrast­ed with a ver­tical rectangular section of puffy clouds. In his work, nature was benign, finding parallels in the famous series of cloud studies by Eng­lish painter John Constable (1776–1837). From 1821, Constable produced a remark­able group of en-plein-air oil studies of the cloud form­at­ions, recording the weather conditions at different times of day. Const­ab­le’s Cloud Study 1821, at Yale Centre for British Art in New Haven, provided a direct model for Street­on. Note the ephemeral nature and structure of a cloud form­ation, with just a fraction of detail at the base of the  painting to anchor sky to earth. 

Afternoon Sky at Ol­in­da c1934 

However in other paintings from the mid–1930s, eg Storm over Maced­on 1936, Streeton conveyed the vigorous drama of a lightning strike as it un­leashed its pent-up energy. Streeton said his strong dramatic canvas was inspired by Shelley’s poem The Cloud 1820.

While the modern viewer may not be rapt in clouds, he/she can now understand the devast­ating destruction of native trees, fields and forests in Melbourne’s hilly outer suburbs.

Streeton was knighted for his services to art in 1937, retired to the rural outer suburb of Olinda in 1938 and stopped painting. He died at Olinda in 1943.

Storm over Macedon, 1936 


Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

I like landscapes but don't know the name Arthur Streeton but he had some talent

Deb said...

I saw Evening with Bathers and Mosman Bay at the NGV, both very serene images. But where are these two Streeton paintings now?

Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, Streeton's paintings seem to me like the logical combined successors to Impressionism, and the Hudson River School, or whatever that style of spectacular nature was called in Australia.

Andrew said...

Most Australians like Streeton's painting.
His homes are interesting. The Loongacres or Long Acres home in Olinda seems to still exist and has has a rather odd design.
The Grange n Toorak is more substantial and must have been renamed to Altadore, (unless he had two homes there) before being demolished in 1969.

Margaret D said...

A lot of detail in those skies Hels.

Katerinas Blog said...

Thanks Hales for introducing Streeton.
Another proof of how much role everything that surrounds the artist (nature, landscapes and architecture) plays in art.
Have a beautiful weekend!

Hels said...


even if you studied art history in school or at uni, it would have been highly likely that the classes focused on British, French, German, Italian and Dutch art. It took quite a long time before Australian collectors focused on local landscapes. Thank goodness we are now much prouder in our own culture.

Hels said...


both paintings are still on the NGV's records, but are defined as "Not on display". Unless the NGV rotates all its treasures every few years, I wonder why they don't value these two Streeton treasures over the top of some of their other treasures.

Hels said...


Australian Impressionism, especially at our famous Heidelberg School of Art, came to be seen as wonderful as the European art that Streeton and his contemporaries learned in Britain and France. But it wasn't that European impressionists hadn't liked doing landscape paintings; it was rather that the European colours, weather, animals, trees and farming were totally different.

Hels said...


Longacres was built in the mid 1920s in Olinda, well worth going to look at because of the gardens in particular. I also quite liked the unusual arts and crafts building design.

But The Grange in Toorak came on the scene when he was older, wealthier and less rural. His gardens were gorgeous, the most serious theme in his life.

Hels said...


his skies were so carefully and impressively painted, they became a core of his art practices. The only issue seemed to be what percentage of the canvas was the _land below the horizon_, and what percentage was the _sky above the horizon_. Still Glides The Stream left only a small proportion of sky (10%); Storm Over Macedon had 90% of the canvas was allocated to sky.

Hels said...


except for portraits, landscapes are the most beautiful because they can scan a VERY long distance and can include anything the impressionist artist can almost see - trees, hills, lakes, animals, humans, storms, houses and farm buildings etc etc. Perfect for broad flat lands like Australia.

jabblog said...

What skilful paintings these are. I like 'A Southern View, Olinda' in particular.

Hels said...


I agree with you and had to think why this particularly landscape might stand out. I suspect there are no bushfires and no droughts showing, and the vegetation is greener and healthier.

DUTA said...

Judging by his paintings, Streeton, a key member of the Heidelberg School, seemed to be very passionate about the local australian light, heat, sky, landscapes. I suppose australians appreciated very much his paintings.

Hels said...


True true. Australian artists had done so well in London and Paris that they had forgotten what Australian landscapes, architecture and cities looked like. Of course Australian collectors passionately loved Wright, Reynolds, Stubbs, Alma-Tadema, Tissot etc but they would have loved some occasional Australian scenes that they recognised from their own lives.

Luiz Gomes said...

Boa tarde de domingo. E um bom início de semana. Minha querida amiga, nunca ouvi falar do Arthur. As pinturas e paisagens são maravilhosas.

bazza said...

I really like paintings with strong cloud studies so these really tick a box or two for me. I think they would stand up well to a lot of European work of that period.
Incidentally my Aussie friends have now moved to Geelong from their large estate in St Andrews and another couple are on Philip Island so we have plenty incentive to visit again!

hels said...

bazza great idea..
Drop me a note before you leave home, if you are coming to Melbourne. Shabbas dinner would be lovely :)
And I can direct you to a fine gallery exhibition of early Australian artists.

Hels said...


for those of us who started art history with early works, there were few landscapes.. occasionally in Italy. But when John Constable and other British artists started painting outside in the early 19th century, it started to impact on other styles and in other countries. We in Australia might have been late, but we adapted well :)

My name is Erika. said...

These painting are gorgeous. Sometimes scenery is just scenery but these are really eye catching. I'm not sure if its the sky (well it is in a couple of them) or the view itself. Thanks for sharing another painter I don't know. And happy new week Hels.

hels said...

I personally had no artistic talent whatsoever. But I was and am a keen historian who relied both on text and art as sources of information.
Thus I envy your talent and am delighted to share my art history knowledge with you.

Liam Ryan said...

Hello hels.
The Australian landscape is just so beautiful. and made more striking through impressionism.
I really loved the first painting, Golding summer. I checked online and it's in Aussie land. Canbera, so I won't get to see it for many years yet. Hopefully, I can see something in a visit in London at a gallery.
I saw this on google arts and it's exquisite: https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-railway-station-redfern/1QEb4F8lkCSULA
Naturally this landscape is alien to European art and a perfect subject in its own right.
Thanks for this blog. I really enjoyed it.