Between the lights - Princes Bridge 1888 signed and dated 'Arthur Streeton - 1888' lower right oil on canvas 84.0 x 155.0cm (33 1/16 x 61in).
PROVENANCE Collection of the artist Mr John H. Connell, Melbourne The Commercial Travellers Club of Victoria, Melbourne, 1914 Australian Paintings, Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 19 November 1971, lot 87 (illus.) Private collection Mr Neville Healy, Melbourne 1985 Private collection, Melbourne Private collection, Sydney
EXHIBITED Victorian Artist's Society Spring Exhibition, Melbourne, 16 November, 1888, cat. no. 44 Golden Summers: Heidelberg and Beyond, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 30 October 1985 - 27 January 1986; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 21 February - 20 April 1986; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 9 May - 29 June 1986; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 30 July - 14 September 1986 Australian Impressionism, Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 31 March - 8 July 2007 (label attached verso)
LITERATURE 'Victorian Artist's Society, Spring Exhibition', The Argus, Melbourne, 16 November 1888, p. 4 The Age, Melbourne, 16 November 1888, p. 8 Table Talk, 23 November 1888, p. 5 'Australian Artists Society, The Western Mail, Perth, 8 December 1888, p. 10 'Victorian Artist's Exhibition', Illustrated News, Melbourne, 22 December 1888, p. 217 (illus.) 219 'Personal', The Argus, Melbourne, 14 August 1914, p. 9 Ann Galbally, Arthur Streeton, Lansdowne, Melbourne, 1969, cat. no. 17 Jane Clark and Bridget Whitelaw, Golden Summers, Heidelberg and beyond, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1985, pp. 81 (illus.) Bridget Whitelaw, The Art of Frederick McCubbin, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1991, pp. 10,20,44,84 Mary Eagle, The oil paintings of Arthur Streeton, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1994, pp. 25-26 Geoffrey Smith, Arthur Streeton, 1867-1943, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1995, p. 22, n.1 Terence Lane, Australian Impressionism, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2007, p. 40, fig. 2.7 (illus.)
The late 1880's weren't only a pivotal time for the celebrated birth of the Heidelberg artists, it was also notable for the development of Melbourne. 'Melbourne, in 1888, was at the high point of an extraordinary land boom, the culmination of development and speculation since the gold rushes of the 1850s. Between 1885 and 1890, Professor Miles Lewis estimates that nine or 10 new buildings were erected in the city every week, many of them from six to 12-storeys high. In 1888, the country's tallest building, the 12-storey Australian Building, opened in Elizabeth Street. (Some said it was the tallest building in the world - and for a moment it may have been.)'1 One of the highlights of the year was the opening of the newly built Prince's Bridge across the Yarra.
Arthur Streeton's Between the lights, Princes Bridge captures the final stages of construction. Exhibited in the Victorian Artists Society spring exhibition of 1888 it was reviewed as 'one of the few attractive landscapes.... Mr Streeton belongs to the school of French impressionists in landscape, and in his pictures there is a certain clever vagueness that leaves something to the imagination. His pictures are by no means 'Beastly clean'. Princes' Bridge, by no means a picturesque object per se is made to look almost poetical under Mr Streetons Brush. It is shown in the twightlight, the arches are half veiled in mist, and one may people the bridge as one will.'2
The painting was purchased from the exhibition by John H. Connell, nephew and heir to the owner of Young and Jackson's hotel, located at the north end of the bridge. Connell was a prominent collector and later in life became a trustee of the National Gallery of Victoria. 'John H. Connell almost certainly acquired or was given the impression for 'Between the lights Princes Bridge' (now in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra) when he bought the large work, Between the lights, Princes Bridge. Eventually in 1914, he gave the large painting to the Commercial Travellers' Association of Victoria.'3
The choice of urban subject matter in 1888 was not only of interest to Streeton but also to his Heidelberg School contemporaries. McCubbin depicted a Yarra river scene titled Melbourne in 1888 (in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne) made real by the belching smoke of ships and chimneys; Tom Roberts showed working shipping on Sydney Harbour set against a murky, smoke-polluted sky in An Autumn Morning, Milson's Point, Sydney (in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney); and Charles Conder's Departure of the Orient Circular Quay (also in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney) portrayed a rainy day along the built-up Sydney waterfront.
Streeton was just 21 when he painted Between the lights, Princes Bridge, yet despite his youth he produced the majority of his best known works in the years 1888-1891. The most recognised works of this time were painted on the same size, grand-scale, canvases as the present work: Golden summer, Eaglemont 1889 (in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne); Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide 1890(in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney); and Spring 1890 (in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne).
1 Terry Lane, 'A Legacy of Marvelous Melbourne', The Age, Melbourne, 6 September 2003 2 'Australian Artists Society, The Western Mail, Perth, 8 December 1888, p. 10 3 Mary Eagle, The Oil Paintings of Arthur Streeton in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1994, p.26