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Lot 15: ARTHUR STREETON 1867-1943 'SUNLIGHT SWEET', COOGEE
Foster's Collection of Australian Art
May 23, 2005
Oil on canvas Signed lower right; inscribed 'Coogee'lower left and lower right; dated 90 and 1890 lower left
Provenance Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer, Melbourne, by 1907; until The Baldwin Spencer Collection of Australian Pictures and Works of Art, Fine Art Society Galleries, Melbourne, 19 May 1919, lot 35; purchased by Mr George Kettlewell Mr and Mrs Charles and Emily Ruwolt, Mulwala, New South Wales; until The Charles Ruwolt Collection of Australian Paintings, Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 17 November 1966, lot 13, as 'Coogee', illustrated; purchased by Elder Smith Goldsbrough Mort Limited; transferred to Elders IXL in 1985 Portrait of Australia Collection,Foster's Group Limited Exhibited Spring Exhibition, Art Society of New South Wales, Sydney, 6 September 1890, cat. 169, £30.0.0 Pictures of Fd. McCubbin, Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts, Gemmell, Tuckett & Co., Melbourne, 5 December 1890, cat. 12 as 'Holiday at Coogee' Pictures by Arthur Streeton Prior to his Return to Europe, Hibernian Hall, Melbourne, 20 April 1907, cat. 71 Sir W. Baldwin Spencer's Collection, National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, December 1916, cat. 24 as 'Coogee' Sir Arthur Streeton Exhibition, Adelaide Festival of Arts, John Martin & Co., Adelaide, 6-23 March 1968, cat. 68 Exhibition of Past Australian Painters Lent from Private South Australian Collections, Adelaide Festival of Arts, John Martins & Co., Adelaide, 8-29 March 1974, cat. 101 (label on the reverse) Elders IXL Collection: Masterworks of Australian Painting and French Barbizon School, Colonial, Contemporary, Continental, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2 March - 1 April 1984, cat. 36, illus. Portrait of Australia: The Elders IXL Collection, national tour, 1985-1988, cat. 28, illus. Arthur Streeton 1867-1943, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and tour to Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, 8 December 1995 - 3 November 1996, cat. 26, illus. Great Australian Paintings from Melboune Private Collections, a fund-raising exhibition for Brainwave: Royal Children's Hospital Neurology Unit, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 30 May - 15 June 1997 Reference Streeton letter to Roberts with sketch of composition, Summer Hill, Sydney, [begun 30 June 1890], Tom Roberts Papers, Mitchell Library, Sydney, in Ann Galbally and Anne Gray (eds), Letters from Smike: The Letters of Arthur Streeton 1890-1943, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1989, p. 19 The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 September 1890, p. 6 Illustrated Sydney News, 27 September 1890, p. 19; 1 August 1891, p. 6 Centennial Magazine, vol. 3, no. 2, September 1890, p. 99 Table Talk, 28 November 1890, p. 5 The Age, 18 November 1966, p. 6 Australasian Antique Collector, February - May 1967, p. 37, illus. Ursula Hoff, 'Arthur Streeton at Coogee',Art and Australia, June 1967, p. 388, illus. Ann Galbally, Arthur Streeton, Lansdowne, Melbourne, 1969, no. 38 Ron Radford, Elders IXL Collection: Masterworks of Australian Painting and French Barbizon School, Colonial, Contemporary, Continental, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 1984, p. 26, cat. 36, illus. The Australian, 7 March 1984 Ron Radford, Pamela Luhrs et al., Portrait of Australia, Elders IXL Collection, Elders IXL, Melbourne, 1986, pp. 42-43, illus. pl. 28 Helen Topliss, The Artists' Camps: 'Plein Air' Painting in Australia, Hedley Australia, Melbourne, 1992, pl. 190 Christopher Wray, Arthur Streeton: Painter of Light, Jacaranda Wiley, Milton, Qld, 1993, p. 55 Mary Eagle, The Oil Paintings of Arthur Streeton in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1994, pp. 20, 66, 104 Geoffrey Smith, Arthur Streeton 1867-1943, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1995,pp. 70-71, illus. Geoffrey Smith and Oliver Streeton,Arthur Streeton and the Australian Coast, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Mornington, Vic., 2004, pp. 13-14 Sir Arthur Streeton is arguably the most important artist of the Australian impressionist generation, a founder of the 'Heidelberg School', and painter of some of the most familiar and popularly loved images of this country. Golden Summer, Eaglemont, Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide, The purple noon's transparent might are now in national or state public collections. 'Sunlight Sweet', Coogee, one of the artist's most idyllic and most accomplished figure-in-landscape subjects, is also the most important of his paintings still available to collectors of Australian art. Born in 1867 near Geelong, Victoria, Streeton trained at the National Gallery of Victoria's art school but soon tired of academic instruction and joined the open-air painting camps established by Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin. In 1888 he discovered the old house that became the home base for the group of artists now famous as the 'Heidelberg School' of Australian impressionists. From 1890, he divided his time between Melbourne, Sydney and the heroic landscape of inland New South Wales, before departing for Europe. He exhibited in London, Paris and America, served as an official war artist during the First World War; and returned to become one of Australia's most acclaimed and influential artists until his death at the age of seventy-six in 1943. Streeton was knighted in 1937. 'Sunlight Sweet', Coogee was painted on the spot, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. As in the iconic Golden Summer, Eaglemont, completed just the year before, a youthful figure looks out across the blue and gold surrounds of the Australian landscape. Then it was the rolling hills of Heidelberg; here the sparkling water and opalescent cliffs near Sydney. In a letter to his old friend Tom Roberts, Streeton sketched the composition and described working on the upright canvas, partly inside a boathouse. He had come to Sydney from Melbourne at the beginning of June, 1890, having just sold his large and poetic Still glides the stream... to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He was twenty-three years old; described by fellow artist Julian Ashton as 'a slim, debonair young man... with a little gold pointed beard and fair complexion. When he wasn't painting, he was quoting Keats and Shelley'.(1) Streeton deliberately chose Coogee as his first plein-air painting spot in Sydney. He knew that Roberts and Charles Conder had painted there together, just after their first meeting in 1888 (their two Coogee paintings are now in the Art Gallery of New South Wales and National Gallery of Victoria respectively). 'What a lovely little place', he wrote to Roberts in September 1890, 'Sand, bananas, empty bottles & color & pretty children. Shall do some good work here I think'. Here in 'Sunlight Sweet', Coogee the brilliant colour harmonies and broad brushwork reveal Streeton at his very best. His bravura paint handling was a revelation to the Sydney critics of the day - who found the work almost too radical. Indeed Mary Eagle has observed that this was the first of Streeton's vertical images to be composed from the sides of the image, 'rather than according to the conventional pictorial sequence of ground, horizon and sky'.(2) Even on a spring day in September, Streeton found the Sydney foreshore crowded with holiday makers - and bathed in colour and light. From the delightful vignette of the young girl in the foreground looking out to sea, to the lightly clad figures on the beach and the picnickers near the 'Ladies Baths' amongst the trees, he evokes the essence of Australia. Streeton returned to Coogee over and over again in later years. (1) Quoted in Jane Clark and Bridget Whitelaw, Golden Summers: Heidelberg and beyond, National Gallery of Victoria and ICCA, Sydney, 1985, p. 150. (2) Mary Eagle, The Oil Paintings of Arthur Streeton in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1994, p. 104.
Dimensions: 90.2 by 49.5 cm