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Sir Arthur Ernest Streeton (1867-1943)
STREETON AT HEIDELBERG, 1888-1890 We soon made beds from saplings and flour sacks and painted luxuriously and successfully for two summers Arthur Streeton The artists' camp at Heidelberg, perhaps the most celebrated of all the Australian artists' camps, and which saw the group famously dubbed 'The Heidelberg School', was founded by Streeton in the summer of 1888-89. Wandering back to Heidelberg station from Templestowe, where he had been painting in Buvelot's wake one late summer's day, Streeton met the owner of the Mount Eagle estate and was offered occupancy of a derelict weatherboard homestead on the summit of the hill. Streeton, just 21 years old and a romantic, immediately fell for this already well-known beauty spot and took up the offer, describing his first night later in recollection for William Moore: 'After supping at the village, I laboured up the hill with a large swag of canvases and paints, and camped in one of the empty rooms. I lay on the floor in my clothes, my books for a pillow, and I had no company except my pipe, a bottle of wine, and a candle.' (W. Moore, The Story of Australian Art, Sydney, 1934, I, p.72) At 'Eaglemont', where Streeton is first recorded painting over the Christmas of 1888, he was joined initially by Llewellyn-Jones and Aby Altson, by Roberts and Withers in the summer of 1889-90, and by Conder first on weekends in the summer of 1889 and then in camp over the summer of 1890, prior to the latter's departure for Europe in April 1890. Other artists including McCubbin, Mather and Waugh made visits, and students gathered over weekends for painting excursions and picnics, but it would be Roberts, Streeton and Conder's intensive work together over the two summers of 1889-90 which crystallised their art. Conder, writing to Roberts just months later from Montmartre, already looked back nostalgically on this time as a golden age: 'I had a very nice letter from Smike [Streeton] a few weeks back, which made me pleased as possible for some days. It was just like the dear boy talking to me, and brought back the best memories of the first months of the year — pink nights after hot days. I feel more than sorry that [those] days are over, because nothing can exceed the pleasures of that last summer, when I fancy all of us lost the 'Ego' somewhat of our natures in looking at what was Nature's best and ideality. Give me one summer again with yourself and Streeton — the same long evenings — songs — dirty plates — and the last pink skies. But those things don't happen, do they? And what's gone is over.' (Conder to Roberts, 20 August 1890, quoted in Moore, op. cit., p.76)THE PROPERTY OF A FAMILY
Sir Arthur Ernest Streeton (1867-1943)

Greaves's Farm, Heidelberg

Sir Arthur Ernest Streeton (1867-1943)
Greaves's Farm, Heidelberg
signed 'Streeton.' (lower right) and dated 'H/berg 89.' (lower left)

oil on canvas
13 7/8 x 15 7/8in. (35.4 x 40.3cm.)

Louis Abrahams (1852-1903), (presumably bought by Abrahams at the auction at Gemmell, Tucker & Co., Melbourne, 5 Dec. 1890, no.10) and thence by descent to the present owners.
T. Lane, Australian Impressionism, Melbourne, 2007, p.324, no.7.5 (illustrated in colour p.133).
Melbourne, Gemmell, Tucker & Co., Exhibition of Paintings by Fr. McCubbin, Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts, 3 Dec. 1890, cat.10.
Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, Australian Impressionism, March-July 2007, cat.7.5.

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Lot Essay

Streeton's Greaves's Farm, presumably bought by Louis Abrahams from the 1890 exhibition and sale at the rooms of the Melbourne auctioneers Gemmell, Tuckett & Co., remained unpublished and unseen in Australia from 1890 until its inclusion in the National Gallery of Victoria's major survey of Australian Impressionism in 2007. According to Terence Lane (private communication), the picture is thought to depict 'one of the tenant farms down on the Yarra, on a loop of the river below the artists' Mount Eagle headquarters. The tenant was apparently F W Greaves'. It shows Streeton at work in the pivotal year of 1889, painting, with the square brush technique he had recently learnt from Roberts, the momentary effects of dusk in the pink-tinged sky and its gloaming that briefly described the pastoral scene before him.

It is a work full of the concerns of the Heidelberg artists as expressed in their announcement 'To The Public' on the title page of the '9x5 Exhibition of Impressions' catalogue ('An Effect is only momentary: so an impressionist tries to find his place. Two half-hours are never alike, and he who tries to paint a sunset on two successive evenings, must be more or less painting from memory. So, in these works, it has been the object of the artists to render faithfully, and thus obtain first records of effects widely differing, and often of very fleeting character.') The artistic manifesto of these young artists, and of Streeton the romantic in particular, sees them taking inspiration from the work of the English romantic poets — Streeton ('when he wasn't painting he was quoting Keats or Shelley', J.R. Ashton) especially, as is underlined in the titles of several seminal canvases from 1890 on, from Wordsworth's Still glides the stream to Shelley's The Purple Noon's Transparent Might. Ironically, it was out of this quintessentially English romantic sensibility and from the few acres on Eaglemont whose picturesque nature had been improved by planting English trees and orchards, that this group of young artists emerged as the 'Australian Impressionists', 'justly celebrated as the first truly national School of Art' (G. Vaughan, 'Director's Foreword' in the exhibition catalogue Australian Impressionism, National Gallery of Victoria, 2007).

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