Seaside Pastoral c.1921 signed 'A STREETON' lower right oil on canvas on board 62.0 x 75.5cm (24 7/16 x 29 3/4in).
PROVENANCE Mr and Mrs Hubert Harvey Private collection Fine Australian and European Paintings, Sotheby's, Sydney, 25 August 1998, lot 142, as 'Ti-trees' Private collection, Sydney
EXHIBITED Streeton's Show of the Sunlit Suburbs of Sydney, Athenaeum, Melbourne, 31 October 5 November 1921 Recent Australian Landscape by Arthur Streeton, Education Department, Sydney, 21-28 November 1921, no. 1 Sir Arthur Streeton Exhibition, John Martin & Co., Adelaide, 6-23 March 1968, no. 60
LITERATURE Alexander Colquhoun, 'Sydney Harbour on Canvas: Charm of Arthur Streeton', Herald, Melbourne, 31 October 1921, pg. 7 'Mr Streetons Pictures', Argus, Melbourne, 1 November 1921, p. 4 'Arthur Street: A Farewell Exhibition', Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 22 November 1921, p.11 Arthur Streeton, The Arthur Streeton Catalogue, Arthur Streeton, Melbourne, 1935, no. 736, 'Sea-side (Ti-tree)' 1921 Gallery, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, August September 1998, (illus.)
On his return from England in 1920, Arthur Streeton spent two very busy years travelling, painting, and exhibiting. With an eye for the future, he even bought five acres at Olinda in the Dandenongs outside Melbourne. Painting trips in Victoria took him to the Grampians, Sassafras, and the seaside towns of Lorne, Sorrento, and Portsea. In Adelaide he painted 'a bird's-eye view' 1 of the city from the hills, while in Sydney the Harbour featured in his paintings, at Cremorne and Vaucluse, together with Coogee. Solo exhibitions were held in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. He contributed to a number of group shows including those of the Victorian Artists Society and the Society of Artists, Sydney, and maintained his international profile with works in London's Royal Academy and Pittsburg's Carnegie International. Before leaving for Canada and the USA in February 1922, he held farewell exhibitions in Melbourne and Sydney in October and November of the previous year. Both were well received, the art critic for The Argus noting that the exhibition '... has for its chief feature several paintings executed during a recent visit to Sydney... handled with masterly ease.' 2 Seaside Pastoral c.1921, 'with its glimpse of the blue sea through teetrees' 3, was singled out for special comment. Alexander Colquhoun in the Melbourne Herald listed it 'among the good things of the exhibition', and the writer for the Sydney Morning Herald noted it first, praising its 'glorious stretch of sapphire sea, which almost dazzles, and wholly satisfies, the eye as viewed through the natural arch of wind-tossed tress in the foreground.' 4 The view through arched trees with the figures in the foreground are reminiscent of the nineteenth-century French painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, the plein air scene here translated from the forests of Fontainebleau near Barbizon to the shores of Sydney Harbour. The quietude one associates with the Corotesque, however, is now enlivened by the feeling of a brisk breeze coming off the Harbour waters, expressed through the rapid strokes of the brush and play of sunlight and shade.
It is unmistakably Australian in appearance, flavoured by that nationalism which is so apparent in Australian art of the time. Streeton had been away in London for many years. A disastrous war had changed western civilization. Moreover, such works of nationalistic sentiment were a natural response on return to one's homeland of pride in one's country and its special beauty. Moreover, Seaside Pastoral is imbued with a special nostalgia, recalling those halcyon days of youth when Streeton, Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin were pioneering a national school of art, adapting the ideas and techniques of Impressionism to the antipodean shores. Figures relaxing by the sea were the subject of many an Australian painting of the 1880s and 90s Roberts's The Sunny South 1887 (National Gallery of Victoria); McCubbin's Moyes Bay, Beaumaris 1887 (Art Gallery of Western Australia), and Charles Conder's A Holiday at Mentone 1888 (Art Gallery of South Australia). Even Rupert Bunny, before he left for Paris, painted figures in a tree shaded beach scene Dromana Foreshore c.1883 (private collection, Melbourne). Seaside Pastoral belongs to a grand tradition in Australian art that reaches back to colonial days and forward, through Charles Meere, to Brett Whiteley and others. The beach has long been a metaphor of Australia, its freedom and sunlight celebrated in captivating paintings.