A fine example of Ashton's work on the eve of his departure for Australia in 1878 and emblematic of the British school of plein air painting (of French origins) which would so influence Australian painting in the 1880s, and not least through Ashton's own teaching at The Art Society of New South Wales from 1885.
Ashton studied in London and at the Académie Julian in Paris. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and at the Royal Society of British Artists from 1871. Ashton worked as an illustrator for journals in London before being invited to Melbourne to work on David Syme's Illustrated Australian News. He left for Australia in 1878, settling eventually in Sydney and becoming one of the most influential figures in the Australian art world: he exhibited works painted in England, befriended Buvelot and McCubbin (dragging the latter out of his studio and up to Heidelberg) and painted with Daplyn on the Hawkesbury from 1884, becoming a central figure in the plein air group there which included Conder, Fullwood, Mahony and Nerli (the Hawkesbury outings forerunners of the famous artists' camps of the late 1880s and early 1890s). He later credited himself with introducing 'plein airism' to Australia ('I had done a fairly large canvas of Merri Creek which I think is the first picture  painted out of doors in the Commonwealth. Up to that time the artists [...] did careful drawings in the open, and in the studio turned them into dull uninspiring pictures. I had but lately come from France with all the enthusiasm of the "plein airists" who denounced any picture that was not painted out of doors') and his Barbizon-influenced plein airism can be seen as one of the formative influences on the Heidelberg School.
His more considerable influence came from his role as a Trustee of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales (1889-1899) and his teaching: a leading patron of young local artists, he organised the purchase of Streeton's Still glides the stream and shall forever glide for the gallery in 1894, the first Streeton to enter the gallery's collection, and used his influence to promote Australian art abroad. He taught in Australia from 1885, founding the Sydney Art School in 1890 (from 1935 the Julian Ashton Art School) which tutored many of the leading Australian artists from the 1930s on, and now Australia's oldest continuous art school.