Menzies Art Brands

ARTHUR STREETON A Sunlit Mountain 1906


Streeton returned to Australia for a holiday in 1907 after many years in England and spent much of his time prolifically painting the landscape of his birthplace. He arrived in January of that year, and after some time in Melbourne, moved out to Mount Macedon where he stayed with the Pinschof family. Carl Pinschof, a friend of Streeton’s, was the Austrian Consul-General in Melbourne and Hohewarte was the family’s country residence. It was during this stay that Streeton painted one of his most well-known depictions of the Australian landscape, Australia Felix 1907 (felix, Latin translation - happy) which is in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia. This work is a statement of the artist’s sentimentality for Australia and demonstrates the understanding he has of this county’s unique natural beauty.

Sunlit Mountain 1907 of the same year, captures that same affection Streeton felt for the landscape after his long absence. While at Mount Macedon, he would spend days sketching and making studies of the local bush and painting en plain air.  In a letter to Theodore Fink on 16 March 1907, Streeton describes the time he had at Mount Macedon, ‘I write to you from Pinschof’s place 3000 feet above sea level. I’ve had a fine time up here, plenty of fresh air and lovely Victorian landscape pale simphonies [sic] in purple black and gold - I’ve painted a large one 5 feet
by 3 - and several smaller one up here.’1 It is not known what these ‘smaller ones’ are however, Sunlit Mountain 1907 certainly has the feel of the Macedon bush and the lyrical beauty of the paintings Streeton was producing at this time.

In this work, Streeton employs a vertical format and paints from a low viewpoint to convey the presence of the towering gums. As in his best paintings, the depiction of light transforms the atmosphere of the landscape, evoking a mood of calm tranquility. The spontaneity of his brushwork captures the essence of the scene and his palette depicts the natural beauty of the Macedon bush.

Streeton held a solo exhibition of his paintings from earlier that year in April 1907 at the Hibernian Hall in Melbourne. The art critic for the Melbourne Argus, Thomas Carrington, commented on the exhibition, ‘after ten years work and study in England and on the Continent, Mr Arthur Streeton has returned to the land of his birth for a holiday, and to renew acquaintances with the scenery whose interpretations first marked him as a colourist with a distinctive style.’2 With over seventy oil paintings and watercolours, the exhibition was a huge success for the artist, many of the works being purchased by important collectors and public institutions.

Streeton’s visit to Australia in 1907 was a major highlight in his career - he reacquainted himself with the bush and rediscovered his love of painting the landscape en plein air. The works he produced during this time are some of the best and most important of his oeuvre, with many still in the hands of major private collections and public institutions.

1. Arthur Streeton, in a letter to Theodore Fink, 16 March 1907, cited Galbally A.
& Gray, A. (eds.) Letters from Smike: The Letters of Arthur Streeton 1890-1943, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1989, p.104
2. Thomas Carrington, ‘Picture Exhibition’, Argus, Melbourne, 22 April 1907, p.8

Caroline Jones BA, MA (Art Admin.)

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