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“Hot Wind” by Charles Conder

“Hot Wind” by Charles Conder - National Gallery of Australia

“Hot Wind” by Charles Conder

“Hot Wind” by Charles Conder is a nineteenth-century symbolist painting depicting a femme fatale blowing smoke from burning brazier towards the distant town.

In the late 19th century, the symbolism was used in depictions of the Australian Colonial landscape. Charles Conder painted this example during the Victorian drought in 1889.

This allegorical painting evokes the intense, bright light and searing heat of harsh Australian droughts.

This painting 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. “The Spirit of the Drought” by Arthur Streeton is similar in its symbolism.

Charles Edward Conder was a painter, lithographer, and designer. He emigrated to Australia and was a key figure in the Heidelberg School, a distinctively Australian tradition in Western art.

Heidelberg School of Art

The Heidelberg School was an Australian art movement of the late 19th century and has been described as Australian Impressionism.

Key figures of the movement include Arthur Streeton, Walter Withers, Tom Roberts, Charles Conder, and Frederick McCubbin.

Australian Impressionism

During the 1870s and 1880s, European artists immigrated to Australia and brought their experience of Plein–air movement to Australia.

Through their work and teaching, they made significant contributions to the development of Impressionism in Australia. 

Drawing on naturalist and impressionist ideas, they sought to capture Australian life, the bush, and the sunlight of the country.

In French Impressionism, colors were painted with more explosive energy and with more pure primary and secondary tones for complementary contrasts.

Australian Impressionists tended to show Australian tones of dry soil, eucalypt woods, and sand, with the dabbling of warm and cold colors.

Australian Impressionism is notable for its compositions of Australia’s cultural heritage.

During the period after Australia’s Federation in 1901, Australian nationalism and Australian Impressionists provided works that have become icons of a passing Australia.

Femme Fatale

A femme fatale is a stock character of a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers, often leading them into compromising and dangerous situations.

She is an archetype of literature and art. Her ability to enchant and hypnotize her victim with a spell was in the earliest stories seen as being supernatural.

The femme fatale today is still often described as having a power akin to an enchantress, seductress, vampire, witch, or demon, having power over men.

The phrase is French for “fatal woman.” A femme fatale tries to achieve her hidden purpose by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, and sexual allure. Femmes fatales are typically villainous, or at least morally ambiguous.

Drought in Australia

Drought in Australia is defined as rainfall over three months, being in the lowest decile of what had been recorded for that region previously. 

Historical climatic records are now reliable enough to profile climate variability. Records since the 1860s show that a ‘severe’ drought has occurred in Australia, on average, once every 18 years.

The worst drought to affect the country occurred in the 21st century—between the years 2003 to 2012.

Nonetheless, many regions of Australia are still in a significant drought, and rainfall records have shown a marked decrease in rain levels, with many scientists attributing this to climate change and global warming.

The increasing frequency of bushfires, droughts, and floods, which have all been linked to climate change.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, Australia has experienced an increase of nearly 1 °C in average annual temperatures, with warming occurring at twice the rate over the past 50 years than in the earlier 50 years.

Rainfall in southwestern Australia has decreased by 10–20% since the 1970s.

Hot Wind

  • Title:               Hot Wind
  • Artist:             Charles Conder
  • Year:               1889
  • Medium:         oil on cardboard
  • Dimensions:   Height: 294 mm (11.57 in). Width: 750 mm (29.53 in)
  • Museum:        National Gallery of Australia

Charles Edward Conder

Charles Conder ‘Hot wind’ 1889

A Tour of the National Gallery of Australia

Impressionism: Charles Conder

Charles Conder


“We’re facing growing climate change, more floods, more droughts, more crisis on a planetary level, and the systems we put in place in the twentieth century are just not going to work.”
– Margaret Atwood


Photo Credits:  GM

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