THERE is a unique quality to the light in Australia. The sky seems bluer than it should, and the landscape leaps at you with golden browns, burnt oranges and warm yellows. The sun’s rays burn and destroy, but also illuminate and comfort. It is something Australians instantly identify as a symbol of their home. Now at the National Gallery in London, as winter shrouds the capital’s skyline with grey, an exhibition full of this distinctive light is on show. “Australia’s Impressionists” is the collected work of four 19th-century artists. Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Charles Conder and John Russell, although highly regarded down under, have remained relatively unknown in Europe. This display should help change that.
Australia is a huge country, at 7.7m km² and the paintings in this show reflect what Christopher Riopelle, the curator, calls the “developing national self-consciousness” of the nation. Arthur Phillip and his First Fleet had arrived in Botany Bay in 1788 to establish a penal colony, and in the 100 years of British colonial rule that followed, the country was divided into six independent colonies. But,…Continue reading