National Gallery of Australia | Audio Tour | Ocean to Outback: Australian Landscape Painting 1850–1950


Audio guide for twenty two key works from the 2007 25th anniversary of the National Gallery of Australia exhibition 'Ocean to Outback: Australian Landscape Painting 1850–1950' curated by National Gallery Director, Ron Radford AM and celebrates the rich history of landscape painting in Australia.


  • Clarice BECKETT, Sandringham Beach c.1933

    Clarice BECKETT, Sandringham Beach c.1933

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    Clarice Beckett’s Sandringham Beach is a dynamic and modern composition of sand, bathing boxes and beach walkers. Beckett depicted the scene from an unusual perspective–from a cliff looking down onto the beach. Captured in the glare of a summer day, the smooth body of sand appears to shimmer with ‘white heat’. Backing onto scruffy vegetation, the bright stripes of the bathing boxes are the most solid aspects of the composition. While these beach shacks were a key motif in the artist’s oeuvre, it is the perspective Beckett explored and the use of colour that transform this image. She recorded her unusual view by even including a craggy ti-tree branch that sprawls across the centre of the picture. Sandringham Beachis one of Beckett’s largest paintings; she generally chose to work on smaller panels. In contrast to Charles Conder’s Ricketts Point, Beaumaris1890, the ocean only occupies a small portion of Beckett’s view. Painted around forty years after Conder, the beachgoers in Beckett’s composition are shown st

  • Harry GARLICK, The drover 1906

    Harry GARLICK, The drover 1906

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    Harry Garlick painted The drover in response to the ‘Federation drought’, which began in 1895 and reached its climax in the summer of 1901–02. Officially lasting until 1903, the drought had a devastating effect on the sheep, cattle and wheat-farming industries throughout much of Australia. Garlick had painted earlier responses to the drought, such as Drought stricken1902 (present whereabouts unknown). It is possible that The drover was painted in the Orange or Bathurst regions of western New South Wales where Garlick was born and lived until 1896. In the heat of the midday sun a drover leads his flock along an arid stock route, the artist’s use of perspective emphasising the distance between the drover and his flock and the hills on the horizon. The drover is indicative of Garlick’s interest in pastoral scenes. As a young man he travelled each week from Orange to Bathurst to attend painting classes with Sydney painter Arthur Collingridge. After relocating to Sydney from Orange in 1896 he attended night class

  • Sidney NOLAN, Burke at Coopers Creek 1950

    Sidney NOLAN, Burke at Cooper's Creek 1950

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    Fuelled by a keen interest in travel, Nolan’s personal experiences of the land are closely linked to the development of mythology within his work. The Burke and Wills paintings from 1949–50 emerged after a journey to Central Australia in 1949. Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills were explorers who died in an attempt to make the first organised crossing of Australia from south to north in 1860–61. In Burke at Cooper’s Creek the ghostly appearance of the ill-fated Burke compounds the notions of isolation, displacement and tragedy relating to the expedition. On leaving the Cooper’s Creek depot on 16 December 1860, Burke told his party that if he had not returned within three months he could be considered perished. Four months later he returned to the empty site, only nine hours after the rest of the party had departed. He died from exhaustion, south of the camp.1 Writing about the series some years later, Nolan said that: … wanting to paint Burke and Wills really comes from a need to freshen history

  • Arthur BOYD, The hunter I (1944)

    Arthur BOYD, The hunter I (1944)

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    Arthur Boyd’s paintings during the Second World War reflect the personal turmoil he experienced at the time and his deep opposition to violence. Boyd was conscripted into the army in May 1941 and discharged in March 1944. His paintings from the war years include expressionistic images of human dislocation and suffering; images of crippled, grotesque figures in the streets of St Kilda and South Melbourne. In 1944 he completed a series of dark, dramatic paintings of figures in the Australian bush. The landscapes in these paintings, including The hunter I, were inspired by places in Victoria that Boyd had visited while on leave from the army, including the upper reaches of the Yarra, Launching Place, Warburton and Woods Point.1 In The hunter I Boyd has used private symbols to create an image of personal despair and anxiety. He portrayed the hunter as an exposed and vulnerable figure, naked with closed eyes. As if trapped or lost in the dense, straggly bush the hunter appears to be both part of the landscape and

  • Russell DRYSDALE, Emus in a landscape 1950

    Russell DRYSDALE, Emus in a landscape 1950

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    … it is continually exciting, these curious and strange rhythms which one discovers in a vast landscape, the juxtaposition of figures, of objects, all these things are exciting. Add to that again the peculiarity of the particular land in which we live here, and you get a quality of strangeness that you do not find, I think, anywhere else. Russell Drysdale 19601 In 1944 Russell Drysdale was commissioned by the Sydney Morning Herald to accompany journalist Keith Newman to western New South Wales to document the effects of the drought. This experience significantly changed the way Drysdale looked at the Australian landscape. The photographs and sketches he made on the trip informed much of his work in the following years. In Emus in a landscape Drysdale has explored the strange and surreal qualities of the Australian outback. The native birds move quietly through the landscape, passing a precariously arranged structure of wood and corrugated iron. This sculptured mass of refuse represents the remains of a

  • Howard TAYLOR, Trees 1950

    Howard TAYLOR, Trees 1950

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    Trees is one of a number of works in egg tempera that Howard Taylor painted from around 1950. The work is a disciplined study of line, light and shape combined to create an overall shimmering effect. In this work Taylor explored the ephemeral qualities of light and colour and the rich and subtle surfaces he observed in the Australian bush. He said that: ‘painting the Australian landscape involved a big change for me, and another change was that I soon got more involved in tempera painting … if you paint in tempera you become engaged in a highly disciplined technique … you’ve got to plan right from the beginning.’1 In Trees the composition is divided into distinct planes, the horizontal bands set against a vertical cluster of trees. Positioned in the centre of the work is the apex of a circle. This circle is filled with light from an unknown source. Around its perimeter are eight trees, the trunks of which create long shadows stretching to the bottom right-hand corner of the composition. The tree foliage rese

  • Charles CONDER, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris [Sandringham] 1890

    Charles CONDER, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris [Sandringham] 1890

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    Charles Conder would have sat right by the water’s edge when he painted this joyous impression of Melbourne bay-side activity. Much of the scene is dominated by water – the reflective shallows of the foreground comprising a significant portion of the composition. Behind the strip of sand and rock a band of ocean stretches to the horizon.1 In this scene Conder explores the elements of light and colour and depicts the activity of visitors to the beach. Women in long dresses search for seashells, a small group watches a sailboat travel across the bay and a child paddles in the foreground. Working primarily in Sydney and Melbourne between 1884 and 1890, Conder suggested in much of his work the subtle moods and poetic qualities of nature. He painted with the energy and enthusiasm of a young man, delighting in the visual world around him and spurred on by the friendly rivalry of his painting companions, Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton. In Ricketts Point, Beaumaris his bold composition and free application of paint

  • Thomas BAINES, Gouty stem tree, Adansonia Gregorii, 58 feet circumference, near a creek south-east of Stokes Range, Victoria River 1868

    Thomas BAINES, Gouty stem tree, Adansonia Gregorii, 58 feet circumference, near a creek south-east of Stokes Range, Victoria River 1868

    21/09/2007 Duración: 02min

    Gouty stem tree, Adansonia Gregorii, 58 feet circumference, near a creek south-east of Stokes Range, Victoria River is an extraordinary image of an enormous water-yielding baobab tree. These trees are native to the north-west of Australia and are easily recognisable by their swollen trunks. The sheer scale of this tree, which dominates the picture, is further emphasised by the two figures at its base. The artist has depicted himself in the lower right-hand side of the painting, sitting underneath a makeshift shelter sketching the scene. British artist and explorer Thomas Baines was one of a group of eighteen people who formed the 1855 North Australian Expedition party. The purpose of the expedition was to ascertain the existence of natural resources for settlement in the north-west of Australia and to determine if there was an inland river or sea. Under the command of Augustus Charles Gregory the expedition lasted from August 1855 to November 1856, the group reaching the mouth of the Victoria River on the up

  • Russell DRYSDALE, Boy running, Cooktown c.1952

    Russell DRYSDALE, Boy running, Cooktown c.1952

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    In 1951 Russell Drysdale spent a number of months travelling throughout northern Queensland and the Cape York Peninsula. In response to this trip he painted Boy running, Cooktown. This painting combines a number of characteristic Drysdale motifs: a long street leading to a vanishing point on the horizon, a building with veranda in profile and a dramatic sky balanced by a vast foreground. There is an inherent drama in this image of a young Indigenous boy running across the street, his action rupturing the stillness of the picture. Drysdale depicts the boy in dynamic movement, yet he seems suspended in time and space. His activity in the isolated street begs the question: where is he running? In his paintings of Australia’s remote towns and settlements Drysdale conveyed a sense of life lived in connection with the land. He explored the spatial, environmental and personal elements that contribute to our experience of place. As in so many of Australia’s remote country towns, the main street in this painting inc

  • Hans HEYSEN, n the Flinders - Far North 1951

    Hans HEYSEN, n the Flinders - Far North 1951

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    For almost three decades the landscape of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia provided inspiration for Hans Heysen. Known for his imagery of Australian gum trees, the artist was forty-nine when he first visited the Flinders Ranges. The scenery of this country had a deep impact on Heysen, and between November 1926 and April 1949 he made many painting trips to the region. In the Flinders–Far North is an example of Heysen combining the two great motifs of his oeuvre in one composition: the Australian gum tree and the view of the Flinders Ranges. The mightiness of the gum dominates this work, set deep in the arid amber and lilac landscape of the Ranges. The work was commissioned by the Commonwealth Government to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Federation and was displayed in the Australian Embassy in Paris for many years.1 In discussing the impact of the Flinders Ranges on his work and the contrast it provided with the landscape of his hometown of Ambleside (also known as Hahndorf), South Australia, He

  • Jeffrey SMART, Wallaroo 1951

    Jeffrey SMART, Wallaroo 1951

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    Inspired by the South Australian copper-mining town, Wallaroo is an atmospheric and mysterious painting. Located on the Spencer Gulf coast, Jeffrey Smart visited Wallaroo in 1951 and made a number of watercolour studies of the town’s buildings, beach, mining sites and breakwater. Returning to his studio, Smart ‘began mixing all the sketches together, trying them this way and that, seeing how they could agree in a large composition–a painting in oils’.1 In Wallaroo two young men carry a boat ashore, one figure stepping out of the water and swinging his arm out to balance himself. The entire composition is an exercise in balance–the stretch of sand meeting the curve of the breakwater, the height of the chimney balancing the weight of the figures. Each element is carefully placed to direct the eye around the painting. There is an eerie stillness to the image, created by the long shadows and abandoned environment. The rusty ochres and greys of the earth and sky contrast with the bright strip of sand and the buil

  • Sidney NOLAN, Inland Australia [Central Australian landscape] 1950

    Sidney NOLAN, Inland Australia [Central Australian landscape] 1950

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    We leaned over in our seats and straining down, our foreheads pressed against the glass windows, found our own land and heard its voice alone. Cynthia Nolan 19621 Between 1947 and 1950 Sidney Nolan spent months travelling through remote areas of Australia. Using money he had made from a successful exhibition of Queensland Outback paintings held at the David Jones Gallery in Sydney in March 1949, Nolan, accompanied by his wife Cynthia and stepdaughter Jinx, travelled through Central Australia, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia. This trip, from June to September 1949, inspired a body of work, including a series of paintings that depict inland Australia from an aerial perspective. Inland Australiais an extraordinary image of the heart of the continent, possibly of the Durack Range. The undulating shapes and intense colour of the red earth evoke an ‘otherworldly’ sensation – a feeling of the land’s inherent grandeur, timelessness and mystery. Nolan painted the work quickly, with the

  • Arthur STREETON, The selectors hut (Whelan on the log) [The selectors hut] 1890

    Arthur STREETON, The selector's hut (Whelan on the log) [The selector's hut] 1890

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    The selector’s hut (Whelan on the log) is an iconic image of the ‘pioneering spirit’ that underpinned Australian nationalist attitudes of the late nineteenth century. Although most Australians lived in coastal cities and towns, it was the bush that was used as a symbol of Australian sentiment. In The selector’s hut (Whelan on the log) Arthur Streeton depicted these iconic elements of the land. The ‘blue and gold’ of sky and earth are encapsulated by the great scale of the sky, the golden grass and shimmering light, a slender silhouetted gum tree and a bush pioneer. By 1888 a railway had been constructed between Melbourne and the suburban fringe at Heidelberg. Towards the end of that year Streeton had set up ‘camp’ in an old house on Eaglemont estate, which was located close to Heidelberg at Mount Eagle. Mr C. M. Davies, part owner of the estate, had offered the house to the artist.1 Early in 1889 Streeton was joined by Charles Conder and Tom Roberts. The camp provided the perfect working environment–a reason

  • Frederick MCCUBBIN, Girl in forest, Mount Macedon [(Landscape with child) (Mount Macedon landscape with girl)] 1913

    Frederick MCCUBBIN, Girl in forest, Mount Macedon [(Landscape with child) (Mount Macedon landscape with girl)] 1913

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    In Girl in forest, Mount Macedon Frederick McCubbin revisits a central theme in his oeuvre: the activities of children in the Australian bush. He had previously painted scenes of children lost in the bush – narratives of innocence and vulnerability within the landscape. McCubbin also explored the magical worlds invented by children through storytelling and imagination. In works such as What the little girl saw in the bush 1904 (private collection, reproduced p. 28) he sought to capture ideas of creative freedom and expression that children unselfconsciously bring to their surrounds. In Girl in forest, Mount Macedon a young girl wanders through the bush carrying a basket, possibly collecting wildflowers or berries. She is small beside the large trees and thick growth, her white dress setting her apart from her environment. McCubbin has paid close attention to the study of dappled light through trees and foliage. Areas of the canvas appear abstracted and flecks of colour are layered over each other using a pal

  • Elioth GRUNER, Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra 1934

    Elioth GRUNER, Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra 1934

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    In 1934 Elioth Gruner made one of several visits to the Canberra region where he painted Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra. In 1928 Gruner had purchased a car, which gave him the means to travel throughout the countryside on painting trips. He first visited Yass and Canberra in 1929 and was impressed by the crisp, clear light of the area. Over the next ten years he returned several times and completed some of his major late works in the district. Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra is an arrangement of several views looking south-west from Canberra towards the Tidbinbilla and Brindabella ranges. While there are no Murrumbidgee Ranges as such, the Murrumbidgee River runs between Canberra and the Tidbinbilla Range. Gruner would have painted this work outdoors, and possibly in one sitting. Through his use of colour he has captured the sharp light of the Canberra region and the cool velvety softness of the surrounding mountains. He has also depicted signs of settlement, including sheep grazing quietly near the ‘bush capit

  • Margaret PRESTON, Flying over the Shoalhaven River [Flying over the Shoalhaven] 1942

    Margaret PRESTON, Flying over the Shoalhaven River [Flying over the Shoalhaven] 1942

    21/09/2007 Duración: 02min

    Margaret Preston was used to seeing the earth from the air. By 1942 the artist had visited Europe and North America, and had travelled extensively throughout much of Asia, the Pacific Islands, Central and South America and Australia. During her travels she visited many places and sought out the Indigenous art of other cultures, yet it was the Indigenous art of Australia that inspired her most. Preston travelled extensively throughout remote areas of Australia to see Indigenous paintings and carvings. She studied the collections at the Australian Museum in Sydney and published articles and lectured on Indigenous art. From 1932 to 1939 Preston lived in the bush at Berowra, close to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park north of Sydney, where her great passion for the natural environment of Australia was reinforced. During the Second World War, Preston, like many others, developed a strong nationalist sentiment and in 1942 published an article titled ‘The orientation of art in the post-war Pacific’. In this article s

  • Eugene VON GUERARD, Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges 1857

    Eugene VON GUERARD, Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges 1857

    21/09/2007 Duración: 02min

    For German-born artist Eugene von Guérard the Australian landscape represented a real, lived experience and a vehicle for evoking personal and contemplative ideas. His remarkable image of a fern-tree gully in the Dandenong Ranges, some 40 kilometres east of Melbourne, conveys a sense of the landscape as a spiritual sanctuary. In this painting von Guérard showed the landscape as a rejuvenating life force, untainted by human interference. When he first visited the Dandenong Ranges the area was a dense bushland of temperate rainforests and cool fern gullies. We know from sketchbooks held in the collection of the Dixson Galleries, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, that von Guérard visited the region twice between 1855 and 1857 and again in 1858.1 The pages of these books contain a number of drawings which document the lush and largely unexplored forests. This natural resource of high-quality timber was rapidly logged for the growing industries and settlement in Victoria. Painted on return to the artist’s

  • Tom ROBERTS, A Sunday afternoon [A Sunday afternoon picnic at Box Hill] c.1886

    Tom ROBERTS, A Sunday afternoon [A Sunday afternoon picnic at Box Hill] c.1886

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    By 1882 a railway had been constructed between Melbourne and the township of Box Hill, and in 1885 Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and Louis Abrahams first visited the area to paint. The artists set up camp on land owned by a local farmer and friend to the artists, David Houston.1 Along with other artists, including Arthur Streeton and Jane Sutherland, the group painted the local bushland. Roberts made a number of works in this area, such as his well known The artist’s camp 1886, while Streeton painted Evening with bathers 1888 (both in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne). In A Sunday afternoon Roberts depicts an intimate picnic. Framed by spindly gums and bathed in dappled light, a young couple relax in the bush, the woman reading to her companion from a newspaper. A belief in the health benefits of the country air was becoming popular with city dwellers who sought recreational activities in the bush or by the ocean. Roberts’s observant eye has resulted in such small details in th

  • Elise BLUMANN, Storm on the Swan 1946

    Elise BLUMANN, Storm on the Swan 1946

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    Elise Blumann painted Perth’s Swan River and the native melaleuca trees of the region many times. Escaping the Nazi regime that devastated much of Europe, German-born Blumann came to Perth with her husband and two children in 1938. Educated at the Berlin Academy of Arts and the Royal Art School Berlin, Blumann was familiar with the modern art of the German Expressionists, Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky and Chagall. In Australia Blumann’s painting was unconventional, however her peers regarded her as a valued member of Perth’s artistic community. In Storm on the Swan Blumann uses broad sweeping gestures – strong horizontal and diagonal brushwork – to capture the power of a storm. Wind and rain beat against the limbs of the trees which appear to almost float in space. This dynamic and sensitive composition displays Blumann’s modern approach to her art and her desire to capture the ‘essential spirit’ of nature.1 Areas of the painting’s surface are blank, while others are scratched with the end of her brush to indi

  • Ray CROOKE, Kingfisher, Thursday Island 1950

    Ray CROOKE, 'Kingfisher', Thursday Island 1950

    21/09/2007 Duración: 01min

    I find a strange island sometimes where ghosts of ancient glories linger, where the winds and the flowers are sweet and the people are still gentle and smiling, where man is conscious of his grandeur and is content to live simply in harmony with the forces around and within him. Yet if we found this island we would destroy it in a month. Ray Crooke 19491 ‘Kingfisher’, Thursday Island marks the beginning of Ray Crooke’s longstanding interest in painting the people and landscapes of Far North Queensland and the Pacific. The work was painted after Crooke’s 1949 visit to the Torres Strait where he stayed for several months on Thursday Island (Waiben) working as a cook, labourer and trochus-shell diver. Crooke first visited the Torres Strait and Thursday Island in 1943 as a soldier with the Australian Army. The artist enlisted in 1940 and during the war travelled extensively throughout Far North Queensland and the Pacific. For his first stay on Thursday Island soldiers were billeted in the abandoned Federal

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