Henry James Johnstone (1835-1907) The Evening Task, 1901

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Lot 8
Henry James Johnstone
(1835-1907)
The Evening Task, 1901

AU$ 45,000 - 65,000
US$ 33,000 - 47,000

Important Australian Art

24 Aug 2021, 18:00 EST

Sydney

Henry James Johnstone (1835-1907)
The Evening Task, 1901
signed and dated lower right: 'H.J. Johnstone 1901-'
oil on canvas
67.5 x 92.0cm (26 9/16 x 36 1/4in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE
    Mr S. Plint, Adelaide
    Mr Frederick Charles Howard, Adelaide
    Private collection
    Mr Jim Elder, Adelaide
    Private collection, Western Australia, acquired from the above in 1981

    LITERATURE
    'A Notable Picture', The Advertiser, Adelaide, 21 June 1901, p. 4


    Born in Birmingham, England, in 1835, Henry James Johnstone studied art at the Birmingham School of Design before joining his father's photographic firm which had become more sophisticated and accessible to the wealthy.

    Johnstone arrived in Victoria in 1853, lured like so many by the possibility of striking it rich on the goldfields. After a number of years trying his hand at prospecting, Johnstone relocated to Melbourne and established a photography studio, Johnstone, O'Shannessy and Co., which quickly became one of Melbourne's most fashionable photographic firms, catering to the affluent.

    Painting, however, was Johnstone's true passion, enrolling at the newly formed National Gallery School of Painting under the tutelage of Thomas Clark, whilst also taking private lessons from the likes of Louis Buvelot. Both, along with his background in photography, would have a profound influence on Johnstone's overall style, subjects and handling of colour and light.

    In 1876, Johnstone moved to South Australia where ultra-realistic impressions of local scenes where particularly well received. By this stage Johnstone's reputation as a painter of note was firmly established and he was rewarded with the Art Gallery of South Australia's first acquisition. In 1881, the Gallery acquired Evening Shadows, backwater of the Murray, South Australia, 1880, which to this day remains one of the collection's most popular highlights amongst visitors.

    By the mid 1880s, Johnstone had departed Australia's shores and was travelling extensively throughout America, settling in London where he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy between 1887-1900. His paintings continued to find their home amongst Australian collectors where his reputation thrived. Indeed, the very sale of a work by Johnstone was enough to garner the interest of the press. When The Evening Task was sold, breathy coverage of the transaction's details made the pages of the The Advertiser, Adelaide, in 1901,

    'A large oil-painting, entitled, "The Evening Task", from the brush of H. J. Johnstone, whose best work, "Evening Shadows", is in the Adelaide Gallery, has been sold by Mr S Plint, on behalf of a client, to Mr F.C. Howard, of this city, for a considerable sum. The subject of the picture is a scene on the banks of the Murray, and though the artist has been so many years absent from Australia, he has retained in a wonderful degree his sense of characteristic atmosphere and color. The treatment of the figures of the two girls in the foreground is admirable. One, stooping by the marge of the stream, is filling her pail with a supply of water for the household, while the other, standing on higher ground, is evidently looking across the river towards a homestead in a clearing, near the opposite bank. The brushwork, whilst fine, is bolder than in the majority of the paintings by the artist, whilst the coloring is both tender and truthful. The canvas is the latest from Johnstone's easel, bearing, as it does, this year's date, and it was a special commission given nearly two years ago by a well known Adelaide art-lover.'

    Alex Clark
Contacts
Henry James Johnstone (1835-1907) The Evening Task, 1901
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