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ARTHUR STREETON - (Windsor)
  • ARTHUR STREETON - (Windsor)
PROPERTY FORMERLY FROM THE COLLECTION OF SIR WALTER BALDWIN SPENCER, MELBOURNE

ARTHUR STREETON (1867-1943)

(Windsor) 1903

Estimate: $40000 - 60000

 

ARTHUR STREETON (1867-1943)

(Windsor) 1903

oil on canvas
35.0 x 45.0 cm; 53.5 x 63.5 cm (framed)
statement of authenticity from Sir Daryl Lindsay, former Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, attached verso

Provenance:
Acquired from the artist, Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer, Melbourne
Estate of the above
Acquired from the above, private collection
Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 17 April 1985, lot 1245 (as Lake Scene with Figures and Swans)
Private collection, Melbourne

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Geoffrey Smith, Chairman, Smith & Singer, with cataloguing this work.

Estimate: $40000 - 60000

When Arthur Streeton arrived in London in May 1897, he was astounded by the prosperity and dynamism of the city – then the bustling centre of the British empire. Streeton relished the opportunity to view the work of European Old Masters firsthand, alongside the English landscape paintings of Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) and John Constable (1776-1837). Writing to Tom Roberts (1856-1931) in June 1898, Streeton declared, ‘I feel convinced that my work hereafter will contain a larger idea & quality than before.’ (1)

Alas, the artist’s early years in England were plagued by poverty, self-doubt and homesickness. Streeton keenly felt the absence of Tom Roberts, his friend and mentor, as he struggled to navigate the often snobbish and arcane workings of the London art scene. In 1899 Streeton met the woman who would become his wife of thirty years, Canadian-born violinist Nora Clench. Their blossoming relationship and subsequent marriage in January 1908 marked a vital turning point, providing Streeton with an expanded social circle and renewed artistic confidence.(2) Streeton began to exhibit regularly in London and Paris and was elected as a member of the Royal Society of British Artists and Royal Institute of Oil Painters.  

Streeton travelled frequently outside London throughout this period, spanning the length and breadth of England – from Sussex and Kent in the south east, to Dorset and Southampton in the south west and Liverpool, Northumberland and Yorkshire in the north. He quickly became accustomed to the most distinctive aspects of the English landscape – its low muted skies, perennially green pastures and soft, fleeting sunlight. While Streeton’s London scenes often depicted the modern world – such as Chelsea Barges c1905 (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne) or Victoria Tower, Westminster 1912 (Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide) – his paintings of rural England harked back to a more distant, Romantic past. Taking inspiration from the early 19th century landscapes of Turner and Constable, Streeton painted the ruined outlines of medieval castles against skies of billowing cloud (Corfe Castle 1909; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne) and cattle grazing beneath towering white clifftops (Malham Cove c1910; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney). 

In The Beck 1910, Streeton presents a scene of rural tranquillity, with figures resting on the sunlit banks of a broad stream. A white swan glides across the water’s silken surface nearby. The image reveals Streeton’s continued interest in the atmospheric effects of light and water, adapted to an English setting; his palette is rich and murky, the lighting subdued.

The present work is further distinguished by its provenance, having been owned by Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer (1860-1929), a prominent scientist, university administrator and patron of the arts. As one of the foremost collectors of Streeton’s art, Spencer owned several other key paintings from the artist’s English period, including The Centre of the Empire 1902, A Kentish Pastoral 1904 and Unloading Bricks, Kew 1905.

 

FOOTNOTES

1. Letter from Arthur Streeton to Tom Roberts, 28 June 1898, quoted in Gray, A., ‘Streeton’s England,’ in Tunnicliffe, W. (ed.), Streeton, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2020

2. Gray, A., ‘Streeton’s England,’ op. cit., p.173

 
Catherine Baxendale

 

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