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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Arthur Streeton

Arthur Streeton

Arthur Streeton

Arthur Streeton (1867 – 1943) was an Australian landscape painter and leading member of the “Heidelberg School”, also known as Australian Impressionism. Streeton’s works can be found in many Australian galleries and museums, next to the significant impressionist works of Claude Monet and Edouard Manet. Streeton was influenced by French Impressionism and the works of J.M.W. Turner.

Streeton was born in Victoria, Australia and commenced art studies at the National Gallery School, Victoria. During this time he began his association with fellow artists Frederick McCubbin and Tom Roberts. Arthur Streeton and his fellow Australian artists who painted “en plein air” in Heidelberg on the outskirts of Melbourne were labelled members of the “Heidelberg School”. The term has since evolved to cover painters who worked together at “artists’ camps” around Melbourne and Sydney in the 1880s and 1890s. Along with Streeton, Withers, Tom Roberts, Charles Conder and Frederick McCubbin are considered key figures of the movement. The movement has recently been described as “Australian Impressionism”.

Drawing on naturalist and impressionist ideas, the “Australian Impressionists” sought to capture Australian life, the bush, and the harsh sunlight that typifies the country. Their works are today part of Australia’s cultural heritage and include many classic stories of Australian folklore, made famous in the works of Australian bush poets.

A Tour of Arthur Streeton’s Art

  • The Spirit of the Drought
    • “The Spirit of the Drought” by Arthur Streeton depicts a common theme in the work of the artist associated with the Symbolist movement of the 1880s and 1890s. Symbolist art drew inspiration from dreams, fantasies, poems and ideas, rather than reality. “Hot Wind” by Charles Conder is similar in its symbolism. Museum: National Gallery of Australia
  • From McMahon’s Point – Fare One Penny
    • “From McMahon’s Point – fare one penny” by Arthur Streeton was painting his 1890 visit to Sydney. While staying with his sister in Summer Hill, Streeton painted views from Coogee and the Harbour. Streeton  wrote to Tom Roberts about this painting at McMahon’s Point: “have a most delightful subject there looking towards Milson’s Pt with an expanse of water, tops of houses, & landing stage & station, in the foreground of the picture.” Museum: National Gallery of Australia
  • The Purple Noon’s Transparent Might
    • “The Purple Noon’s Transparent Might” by Arthur Streeton depicts the blue and gold of Australia’s sun-drenched landscape. In early 1896 Streeton travelled to the upper reaches of the Hawkesbury River, between Richmond Bridge and Windsor in New South Wales, Australia, where he was inspired by the expansive view looking towards the Blue Mountains. The title ‘The purple noon’s transparent might’ takes its name from a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley that embraces the natural world. Painted over two days during a hot summer, he contemplated Shelley poem. On a ledge above the oaks and eucalypts, Streeton painted this work in two days, during a shade temperature of 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Later Streeton recalled he worked on the canvas in ‘a kind of artistic intoxication with thoughts of Shelley. Streeton wrote dramatically: “My work may perish, but I must work so as to go on, …” When the painting was exhibited, it was immediately recognised as a masterpiece, and it received many tributes. Museum: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Arthur Streeton

A Tour of Artists

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“Those who lose dreaming are lost.”
– Australian Aboriginal Proverb

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Photo Credits: 1) Tom Roberts [Public domain]

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