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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“The Purple Noon’s Transparent Might” by Arthur Streeton

"The Purple Noon’s Transparent Might" by Arthur Streeton

“The Purple Noon’s Transparent Might” by Arthur Streeton

“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 the many tributes.

Shelley Poem

The sun is warm, the sky is clear,
The waves are dancing fast and bright,
Blue isles and snowy mountains wear
The purple noon’s transparent might,
The breath of the moist earth is light,
Around its unexpanded buds;
Like many a voice of one delight,
The winds, the birds, the ocean floods,
The City’s voice itself, is soft like Solitude’s.

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

‘Stanzas Written in Dejection, Near Naples’ is considered one of Shelley’s finest poems, It was published by Mrs Shelley as “Posthumous Poems” in 1824, where it is dated as ‘December 1818’.  It is one of his representative Romantic poems, with its depiction of personal feeling against the backdrop of the natural world at the shores of the sea at the Bay of Naples.

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.

The Purple Noon’s Transparent Might

Arthur Streeton

A Tour of the National Gallery of Victoria

~~~

“Unless you’re willing to have a go, fail miserably, and have another go,
success won’t happen.”

– Phillip Adams

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Photo Credit: Arthur Streeton [Public domain, Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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