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Property of The Trustees of the late Lt. Col M.C. Sands
Charles Edward Conder was born in Middlesex, a descendent of the sculptor Roubiliac. He was educated at a boarding school in Eastbourne where at an early age he showed a keen interest in art. In an attempt to dissuade him from becoming a painter his father sent him to live with his uncle in Sydney, New South Wales in 1884. He was soon bored by his job as a surveyor and obtained a post with the Illustrated Sydney News. He began to paint landscapes in 1886 and two years later moved to Melbourne to study at the National Gallery, while teaching with Arthur Stretton.
In 1890 Conder boarded a ship bound for Europe. Disembarking at Naples he travelled via Rome and Florence to Paris. There he studied at the Academie Julian and at the Louvre under Constant and Doucet. He was elected an Associate of the Socéaté des Beaux Arts. From Paris he made several painting trips to Normandy and Dieppe.
Late in 1894 he moved again, this time to London, taking a studio in Chelsea. In 1900 he was elected a member of the New English Art Club and the following year he married the socialite and widow, Mrs Stella Maris Belfor, a match which gave the artist considerable financial security and many important social contacts. The couple moved to Belgravia and over the next few years made brief visits abroad, to Venice in 1903 and to France and Spain in 1905. The artist had however suffered from poor health for some time and in 1906 fell ill with paralysis. He died two years later.
Conder is particularly well-known for his watercolours executed on silk, a technique which he first used in Paris in 1893 and applied to fan designs in London from 1894 onwards. Frank Gibson (Charles Conder, His Life and Work, London, 1913, p. 52) commented, 'With the washed silk he gets the most beautiful surfaces, the most tender and elusive hues; the delicate tint of those dainty drawings, so many of which were shaped for fans, agree perfectly with the frail texture of the material and their idyllic subjects. Here his own fancy is afforded the widest scope, and by the simplest means; indeed, one or two graduated tones are often enough to stir the imagination and to fill the mind with delights fantastic and with the beauty of dreams'.