ROSES, c.1931

Important Australian + International Fine Art
25 November 2009

Arthur Streeton

(1867 - 1943)
ROSES, c.1931

oil on canvas

60.5 x 50.5 cm

signed lower left: A STREETON

$35,000 - 45,000

Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 23 May 1979, lot 49
Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne


Spring Exhibition 1979, Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne, 17 – 30 October 1979, cat. 48 (illus.)

Catalogue text

Arthur Streeton loved flowers, especially roses. This is seen and felt in the painting on offer in which the artist's response flows through his presentation of their beauty. A setting of deep blues was chosen to increase the visual richness of the painting, providing beguiling colour contrasts to the pink and yellow rose petals. Repeated in the seductive textures and continued in the decorative, branchlike swirls in the background, they echo and offset the roses' individual folds, created by the delicate interplay of light and shade. Streeton administered his coup de gràce with painterly bravura, his passionate response to the motif caught up in a moment of visual splendor.

Although Streeton sought to capture the beauty of these intimate gifts of nature as early as 1889, his encompassing interest in flowers bloomed in later life, his garden in Toorak and the fertile fields in the Dandenong Ranges at 'Longacres' providing abundant opportunities. The early twenties saw such titles as 'Marigold Michaelis', 'Chrysanthemums' and 'Cool Asters' appear in his exhibition catalogues, amid paintings of Venice, golden summers, and the ever-blue Sydney Harbour. 'Sunflowers' seemed an apt choice, the flower being a metaphor of the artist whose love of light was referred to as 'Apollonian'. Streeton's attachment to nature encompassed concern for the environment, especially in the face of the clearing of forests in the Dandenongs. Paintings such as Last of the Messmates, 1928, and Our Vanishing Forests, 1934, cried out against this mindless destruction. Streeton's 1930 exhibition at Melbourne's Fine Art Society's Gallery included two oil paintings titled 'Roses' of similar size to our painting. More were exhibited the following year, including Roses - Yellow and Red, of the same popular format, a possible candidate for our painting. Harold Herbert, art critic for The Argus wrote, 'His love of flowers inveigles him into a manner with paint which makes them fragile, beautiful things.'1 Streeton, however, had something special in mind for, in 1932, at the same gallery in Melbourne, he presented an Exhibition of Roses, the majority of the oil paintings being devoted to his favourite flower. The titles chosen indicate the visual intoxication of their appeal - 'Roses, Silver and Silk', 'Roses, Deep Red and Green', and 'Roses Reflected'.2

The lyrical always appealed to Streeton. In his youth he found it in the balmy days and nights of summer. In later years the fruitful joys of nature were enjoyed as much in his garden as in the splendid vistas and tall trees of the Dandenong Ranges. His happy choice now lay between the robust, outdoor scene, and the intimacy of a bowl of flowers, his paint-laden brush attracted equally.

1. Herbert, H., 'Art of Arthur Streeton: Sunlit Landscapes. Beautiful Flower Pieces', Argus, Melbourne, 17 March 1931, p. 8
2. Fine Art Society's Gallery, Melbourne, 1-14 December 1932, cats. 1, 3, & 4