A Sunlit Mountain 1907 signed 'A STREETON ' lower left and dated '1907' lower right oil on canvas 76.5 x 51.0cm (30 1/8 x 20 1/16in).
PROVENANCE Private collection Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne Private collection Australian & International Fine Art, Deutscher-Menzies, Melbourne, 4 June 2003, lot 70, as 'The Glade' Private collection, Sydney
EXHIBITED Exhibition of Pictures by Arthur Streeton Prior to his Return to Europe, Upper Hibernian Hall, Melbourne, 20 April 1907, no. 6, as 'A Sunlit Mountain' Australian Art: Colonial to Contemporary, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 19 May 10 June 1995, no. 43, as 'The Glade' (illus.)
In A Sunlit Mountain 1907, Arthur Streeton, through the skillful use of a low viewpoint, elevates the noble gums, adapting the panoramic to a vertical format to encompass an intimate moment of lyrical beauty. As in his best paintings, sunlight transforms the view, translating the prosaic into the poetic, the mere landscape into a work of art. Tall trees, enveloped by light and atmosphere, dissolve into the insubstantial, evoking a mood of transcending peace. The spontaneity and breadth of handling captures the enthusiasm of Streeton's response to the motif. Painted during a visit to Australia after many years in England, this and other Australian scenes of the time reveal the depth of Streeton's affection for his native land. Feelings of patriotism reach their height in his large painting, Australia Felix 1907 in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Included in the same 1907 Melbourne solo exhibition as our painting, Streeton combined his love of the panorama with mastery of colour, a painterly paean to the sunburnt country. Two years later it was awarded a bronze medal at the Paris Salon of the Société des Artistes Français. A Sunlit Mountain probably had its genesis at the same time and place as Australia Felix. During the summer of 1907 Streeton stayed with his friend and patron, the Melbourne Austrian-Consul General Carl Pinschof at his country residence, 'Hohewarte', at Mount Macedon. It was within walking distance of his friend Frederick McCubbin's home, 'Fontainebleau' where McCubbin painted many a masterpiece of shaded bush glades transformed by bursts of golden sunlight. A Sunlit Mountain pays homage to his old friend.
Writing to Theodore Fink from Macedon on 16 March 1907, Streeton said ''...I've had a fine time up here, plenty of fresh-air, & lovely Victorian landscape pale symphonies in purple black & gold - ... I've painted a large one 5 feet by 3 [Australia Felix] - & several smaller ones up here.' 1 It is tempting to identify A Sunlit Mountain as being among these 'several smaller ones'. It certainly has the look and feel of the Macedon bush.
Thomas Carrington, art critic for the Melbourne Argus, opened his review of Streeton's exhibition thus 'After ten year's 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 interpretation first marked him as a colourist with a distinctive style'. 2 Totaling over seventy oil paintings and watercolours, the majority featured English subjects including the large oil, The Centre of the Empire, and the watercolour The Royal Barge at Eton, both of which had been lent by the notable collector of Streeton's work, Professor Baldwin Spencer. Another exhibit from the same collection was Summer Day at Coogee, joining paintings of Mt Macedon and Mount Toorong. The exhibition was a great success with sales of £1,213 by opening day, the total believed to have reached £2,000. 3 A week before, the Art Gallery of South Australia purchased the large oil Blue and Gold, painted in London in circa 1903. Streeton told Roberts he '... did not show it, as the Melb. Trust[ees] had not seen it.' 4
1. Streeton to Theodore Fink, Macedon, 16 March 1907, quoted in Ann Galbally & Anne Gray (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 3. Streeton letter to Tom Roberts, Melbourne, 21 April 1907, in R. H. Croll (ed.), Smike to Bulldog: Letters from Sir Arthur Streeton to Tom Roberts, Ure Smith Pty Limited, Sydney, 1946, p.83 4. Ibid