This small but very fine early work by the artist displays particular influences from the Camden Town Painters, particularly Harold Ginner, who Godfrey Miller became interested in on his arrival to London in 1929.
The decade Miller spent in London was a highly experimental one in which he moved towards "a renaissance of my own, a discarding of the chrysalis" – a chrysalis which had largely involved the production of romantised tonal landscapes in his previous years in Melbourne. In seemingly modest still life arrangements and exquisite colour landscapes and street scapes such as 'Street scene, London', Miller began to structure form through colour and to assemble everyday objects and scenes under the principle that all forms are reducible to a harmonizing geometry. In years largely under sway of Cezanne, when English reactions to what was happening in Paris polarized into a conflicting pull between abstraction and representation, these beautiful small paintings were a necessary precursor for the artist, to the Cubist studies which came increasingly to occupy his time in London.
The arrangement of this street scene along a set of defined diagonals may also imply the effects of Miller's reading of the Dynamic symmetrist Jay Hambidge and his claim that diagonals brought unity and tension to a painting. Colour is virtually rubbed into the canvas to give a hazy sfumato effect, analogous to the atmospheric effects Miller encountered on London streets: he wrote around this time, " Tonight I walked along the streets. They have now that soft, misty air that seems to sink down into the chasms of the building lined streets; light both by day, and artificial by night, is soft and full of colour".
© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2004
The empty street
oil on canvas board
24.0 x 24.0 cm sight; 36.7 x 36.4 x 1.8 cm frame
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
D G Wilson Bequest Fund 2004
Not on display
© Estate Godfrey Miller/John Henshaw
Where the work was made
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Fine Australian paintings and sculpture, drawings, prints and photographs and European paintings, prints and sculpture including the Collection of Sir Tristan Antico and Property from the Collection of Ronald Leslie Greenaway:
Annual collector's exhibition 2002:
Godfrey Miller, Charles Nodrum Gallery, Richmond, 02 Sep 2004–28 Sep 2004
Referenced in 5 publications
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 2005, Sydney, 2005, 17, 18 (colour illus.), 63.
Charles Nodrum Gallery, Godfrey Miller, Richmond, 2004, (colour illus.). cat.no. 2; titled 'Street scene, London'; dated 1929; price $17,500
Deborah Edwards, Godfrey Miller, Sydney, 1996, 21. A related work '(London street scene)' is reproduced in colour.
Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art: Annual collector's exhibition 2002, Melbourne, 2002, 31 (colour illus.). cat.no. 38; titled 'The empty street'; dated c. 1929
Sotheby's Australia, Sotheby's Melbourne: Fine Australian paintings, Melbourne, 1994, 52 (colour illus.). lot no. 50, 'The empty street', oil on board, painted circa 1929, Provenance: Darlinghurst Galleries, Sydney, Estimate: $3,000/5,000