Born in 1904, John Passmore studied briefly under George Lambert and with Julian Ashton at his Sydney Art School prior to travelling to Britain in 1933. He remained in England for 17 years, returning to Australia with a style reminiscent of his early tutors, and inspired by the work of Cizanne and the colours of France's Ctte d'Azur. The artist made a dramatic break from these influences with five works he submitted to the Helena Rubenstein Travelling Art Scholarship in 1959, in which he manifested a new preference for tertiary colours and inspiration derived from his Sydney home.
This break was exemplified by Waters Edge #2, a work which, together with its partner-piece Jumping-horse Mackerel (Art Gallery of New South Wales collection) was less illustrative of his preferred environs of Sydney Harbour.
Barry Pearce comments 'These paintings, which might be viewed superficially as abstractions are a summation of Passmore's gifts as a painter. His fine sense of tone and subtle handling of pigment, and his innate ability to juxtapose colours so that their resonant qualities are enhanced, are brought into play with a tremendous, almost awkward use of line and shape, to capture the landscape elements he was drawn to. Edges of water where little shafts of light and shadow dart on the surface answer to the shapes of pylons and boats and sky, and the movement of bird and fish. The organic ambience between sea and earth, embracing things above and below, hints at the mystery, the 'otherness' encompassed by Passmore's mind, a fragmentary vision held together by an intensity of imagination that incorporated his whole sense of being. On a note pad in his studio he wrote: "One's art is an ideogram of himself and also the mystery of things".' (B. Pearce, John Passmore, Sydney, 1985, exh. cat., p. 18)