Menzies Art Brands


32. ARTHUR STREETON Gordale Scar (Grey) 1910.jpg

Gordale Scar (Grey) 1910 is a lively response to a striking cleft and canyon captured while on a walking tour of the Yorkshire Dales in North Yorkshire, England.1 Painted outdoors, in front of the subject, it is one of a pair of paintings Arthur Streeton produced of the impressive landscape, along with an additional and larger studio picture, Malham Cove 1910, acquired for the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1914.

Gordale Scar has been immortalised by prominent English Romantic painters and poets, including J.M.W. Turner (17751851), James Ward (17691859) and William Wordsworth (17701850). Arthur Streeton was certainly aware of the previous painterly incantations and the way artists used close-up perspectives of a cliff face to emphasise the scale and grandeur of the cliff and hidden gorge. Such pictorial devices epitomised the awe-inspiring qualities of the fashionable Sublime landscape exemplified by the English Romantic tradition.2 Streeton was also interested in the dramatic landscape, but his approach was quite different in feel and execution.

Goredale Scar (Grey) and Goredale Scar (Sunny) [sic] are both listed in Arthur Streetons 1935 catalogue, being the same size and similar in composition and technique. When they were first exhibited in Melbourne in 1914 the two paintings received favourable responses, with the Age art critic referring specifically to the dazzling effect of cliff and verdure [sic].3 The primary difference, conveniently alluded to in their respective titles, is Streetons desire to show the same subject at different times of the day and in different atmospheric conditions. These two works clearly display Streetons artistic philosophy grounded in English and French Impressionism and en plein air painting techniques.

In Gordale Scar (Grey), the vibrant, swirling sky is rendered in short choppy brushstrokes suggesting a windy day, while the wet-on-wet areas of impasto indicate an artist working at speed to capture the passing visual effect. Streeton counterpoints short, almost abrupt, vertical brushstrokes in the brown-grey cliff face against the longer drawn-out ribbons of freshly applied paint that clothe the cliff and foliage in enticing hues of green.

Arthur Streetons English sojourn lasted from 1897 to 1914. It had a profound effect on both his working methods and reputation. As Streeton became more able to respond to the nuances of the English countryside, the local conditions of light and atmosphere,4 his palette and his compositions embraced new sights, ideas, and artistic influences.


1. Until recently it was thought that the Yorkshire walking tour was in 1910, but recent Streeton scholarship now points to 1909 as the year that he painted at Gordale Scar and Malham Cove, Yorkshire, possibly in company with George W Lambert. See Tunnicliffe, W. (ed.), Streeton, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2020, p.339
2. For example, the imposing presence of James Wards Gordale Scar (A View of Gordale, in the Manor of East Malham in Craven, Yorkshire, the Property of Lord Ribblesdale), c1812-14, Tate Gallery collection, London
3. The Age, Melbourne, 9 June 1914, p.12
4. Konody, P., Arthur Streetons English Paintings, in Ure Smith, S. (ed.), The Art of Arthur Streeton, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1919, p.17

Rodney James
Rodney James is an independent art consultant who specialises in valuations, collection management, exhibitions, research and writing, and strategic planning for art galleries and museums.

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