SIRIUS, ATHOL AND ROSE BAY, 1907

Important Australian + International Fine Art
Sydney
27 August 2014
7

ARTHUR STREETON

(1867 - 1943)
SIRIUS, ATHOL AND ROSE BAY, 1907

oil on wood panel

12.5 x 61.0 cm

Estimate: 
$150,000 - 200,000
Provenance

Bernard's Gallery, Melbourne
Mr E.F. Millar, Melbourne
Thence by descent
Private collection, Melbourne

Exhibited

Streeton's Sydney Sunlight Exhibition, Bernard's Gallery, Melbourne, 1–5 October 1907, cat. 13

Literature

Streeton, A., The Arthur Streeton Catalogue, Melbourne, 1935, cat. 306 (in possession of Mr E.F. Millar) 

Catalogue text

After years of absence, the emotional and visual appeal of one's homeland is very strong. This was particularly so for Arthur Streeton, after many years in London returning to Melbourne before visiting Sydney in the winter-into-spring of 1907. Here he painted a number of sparkling views of the Harbour, of Mosman Bay, Cremorne, Point Piper, and others. His enthusiastic engagement with the scene, its harbour, coves and beaches is shared with the viewer through the spontaneity of his response, realized with an increased assurance, as seen in Sirius, Athol and Rose Bay, 1907. The panoramic sweep of the harbour is awe-inspiring, enveloped in an atmosphere of sunlight contrasting with the deeper, more intimate touches of the coves to the left, enriched by his time abroad. Of his show in Sydney in July, the critic for the Sydney Morning Herald observed, 'For one thing, whilst handling Australian landscape in his former manner, the artist has now assimilated the ideas of the English painters of the last century for special effects in which they could be utilised in expressing the shadowed fields and dwelling places of the ancient isle. Thus there is the contrast between schemes in light tones and in dark ...'1

Since his first days in Sydney during the nineties when he and Tom Roberts were at Curlew Camp, Little Sirius Cove, the area had a strong appeal. It had resulted in some of the finest works, especially Sirius Cove, c1895 in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. The enthusiasm of his response on return is readily felt in a letter to Roberts.

'I've done a good many panels of Cremorne and the lovely Southern Shore, and yesterday I opened fire on a 48 x 48 about 200 yards above [Curlew] camp. It is still as wild and thick as ever, and one can paint all day and never see a soul. It's a great change & rest for me. The lovely old Banksia trees and a great deal of native flowers and the long pale blue waters beyond.'2

Each work was painted on long, narrow draper's boards, as in Sirius, Athol and Rose Bay, 1907, of richly coloured wood, the format ideally suited to the subject. The warmth of the sky reflects in the harbour waters, the buildings of the growing city to the right contrasting with the bush of the left shore. The twenty-one paintings shown at Bernard's Gallery, Melbourne, which included our work, were strongly poetic in conception and title - A Bronze Arm on a Bosom of Blue, or Sapphire, Bronze, and Gold. The times of day from calm mornings to golden afternoons and dusk are equally so. The paint is sumptuous and lavishly applied, embracing a moment of appealing quietude.

1. 'Mr. Streeton's Exhibition', Sydney Morning Herald, 18 July 1907, p. 3
2. Croll, R. H., Smike to Bulldog: Letters from Sir Arthur Streeton to Tom Roberts, Ure Smith, Sydney, 1946, p. 90

DAVID THOMAS