The Adriatic 1903 signed 'CONDER' lower right oil on canvas on card 39.5 x 59.7cm (15 9/16 x 23 1/2in).
PROVENANCE Judge Evans, London Decorations, Melbourne, 8 November 1953, lot 106 Mrs Neville Fraser Private collection Thence by descent Private collection, Perth
EXHIBITED Carfax Gallery, London, January 1910, as 'The Adriatic' The Judge Evans Collection, The Goupil Gallery, London, May-June 1918, no. 56, 'The Adriatic'
LITERATURE Ursula Hoff, Charles Conder, Landsdowne Press, Sydney, 1972, pl. 31 cat 106 (illus). Gibson, Frank, Charles Conder: His Life and Work, Ballantyne Press, London, P.104
"A genius in his own sphere and perfectly at one with his period."1
Charles Conder (1868 1909) was an English painter who migrated to Australia in 1884 and settled in Melbourne where he met iconic Australian artists Arthur Streeton (1867 - 1943) and Tom Roberts (1856 1931), the later whom he shared a studio with. Conder's contribution to our national cultural identity through his historical landscapes, together with that of his Heidelberg school contemporaries has shaped the way generations of Australians identify with the unique qualities of the local landscape. During his two years in Melbourne Conder worked closely with this pioneering group of artists and produced his critically acclaimed works Under a Southern Sun (1890) and The Selector's Hut (Arthur Streeton) c.1890 both now in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
Conder returned to Europe in 1890 and spent the remaining twenty years of his career in England though he made frequent trips to France. In the Spring of 1903, Conder visited Venice with his wife, Stella Maris Belfordand it is here that The Adriatic 1903 was conceived. The beach had long been one of his favourite open air themes, harking back to earlier paintings produced in Australia, such as the iconic A Holiday at Mentone 1888 in the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia.
The Adriatic depicts a fantasy scene of nudes in classical drapery set against a rich landscape of earth and sea. While the costumes imply the past, Conder is not interested in recreating a specific historical character or place, rather, he delves into the aesthetic possibilities of his theme. "Here fantasy and reality mingle, the inspiration of nature merges into an arcadian dream. The rich dark tones of the negress in the boat to the left greatly contribute to the opulence of effect."2
Art historians have noted that after Conder's return to Europe his paintings became more "openly decorative and Rococo"3. The stylized pastel tones together with the classical subject matter depicted in The Adriatic confirm this influence. The Adriatic is an elegant and technically accomplished work exemplifying Conder's new stylistic approach. The powerful composition together with the delicate tonal effects that Conder achieves through his confident rendering of paint, using short brush strokes, was conceived in a purely impressionist vein. 4
Conder's important place in Australian art history is assured. His Australian paintings are among the most valued and critically acclaimed of the Heidelberg era. His latter European works cannot be overlooked. These later works are technically flawless, imbued with a sense of assurance and spontaneity that only comes with artistic maturity.
1. Hoff, Ursula, Charles Conder, Landsdowne Press, Melbourne, 1972, p.81 2. Hoff, Ursula, Charles Conder, Landsdowne Press, Melbourne, 1972, p.80 3. Thomas, Daniel, Outlines of Australian Art: The Joseph Brown Collection, Abrams, New York, 1989, p.28 4. Hoff, Ursula, Charles Conder, Landsdowne Press, Melbourne, 1972, p.79
Please note this work is 'oil on silk laid on board'
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