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An image of On the River Yarra, near Heidelberg, Victoria by Charles Conder

Charles Conder

(England, Australia 24 Oct 1868 – 09 Feb 1909)

On the River Yarra, near Heidelberg, Victoria
Place of origin
(circa 1890)
Media category
Materials used
oil on canvas

30.4 x 40.7 cm stretcher; 45.5 x 55.6 x 5.0 cm frame

Signature & date
Signed l.l. corner, brown oil "C CONDER". Not dated.
Jean Cameron Gordon Bequest Fund in memory of her mother Mary Gordon 2002
Accession number
19th c Australian art
Further information

'On the River Yarra, near Heidelberg, Victoria' is a superb plein-air sketch made at the heart of the Heidelberg movement, just below Eaglemont where Conder was camped with his friends Roberts and Streeton during the golden summer of 1889-90. He painted it at the request of Walter Withers, who was for a period working with the group, and probably exhibited it at his studio in Melbourne shortly before his departure in April 1890 to Europe, from which he never returned. Twenty years later Withers sold it through his dealer to the governor of Victoria, writing a letter describing the circumstances of the painting, including how Streeton was at that time working on 'Still glides the stream and shall forever glide', later bought by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Its fresh, rapid execution (which even contains evidence of the artist's fingerprints, displaying haste to record the effect of the motif as quickly as possible) is a supreme example of the philosophy of plein-airism of the period, and the Corot-esque notion that submission by the artist to the monumental moments of nature had its most ideal expression through the oil sketch.

But the appeal of this work, above all perhaps, is that it is a painter's painting; a gift from one artist to another who recognised his language more intimately than the average eye. In this sense it has an alliance with Streeton's 'The road to Templestowe' 1889, which was purchased by Roberts, and Conder's 'Feeding the chickens' 1888, which Conder gave to Streeton. Both these paintings were eventually presented to the Art Gallery of South Australia. They are exactly the same size as 'On the River Yarra, near Heidelberg, Victoria', and this trio of works thus might well be regarded, to borrow from Serusier, 'talismans' of the collegiate spirit of Australian impressionism.

© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2002

Bibliography (11)

Christie's London (Editor), Christie's London: Impressionist and Modern Paintings and Sculpture, London, 02 Apr 1990, front cover (colour illus.), 94 (colour illus.), 95. lot no. 140; The property of a gentleman; titled '"On the river Yarra", near Heidelberg, Victoria'; estimate £100,000-150,000

Mary Eagle, The oil paintings of Charles Conder in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1997, 50, 51 (illus.), 52.

Ted Gott and Kelly Gellatly, Heidelberg to Heide: creating an Australian landscape 1850-1950, Bulleen, 2001, 34, 62. Private Collection, Courtesy of Lauraine Diggins Fine Art

Ted Gott and Kelly Gellatly, Heidelberg to Heide: creating an Australian landscape 1850-1950, Bulleen, 2001, 62. Checklist of works.

Terry Ingram., The Weekend Australian financial review, 'Mud in yer eyes" gallery toasts Yarra success', Sydney, 01 Feb 2003-02 Feb 2003, (colour illus.). Smart Art section of the Weekend Australian Financial Review.

Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art: Annual collector's exhibition 2000, Melbourne, 2000, 12, 13-14 (colour illus.). 14

Barry Pearce, Charles Conder 1868-1909, 'Between worlds: Conder in Australia', pg. 12-31, Sydney, 2003, 12 (colour illus., detail), 13, 30, 66, 101 (colour illus.), 193. 31

Barry Pearce, The Weekend Australian, 'Forgotten Impressionist', R16., Surry Hills, 07 Jun 2003-08 Jun 2003, R16.

Barry Pearce, Look: 1953-2003 celebrating 50 years, 'The enigmatic Charles Conder: spotlight on a lesser known Heidelberg painter', pg. 8-11, Newtown, May 2003, 10 (colour illus.).

Barry Pearce., Australian artist, 'Charles Conder: lost and found voice of the Heidelberg School', Chatswood, Jun 2003, (colour illus.).

Public Programmes Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'K' is for Conder: Charles Conder retrospective, Sydney, 2003, (illus.). not paginated

Exhibition history (3)

Heidelberg to Heide: Creating an Australian landscape 1850-1950, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, 02 Jun 2001–12 Aug 2001

Charles Conder retrospective (2003-2004):

Plein-air painting in Europe 1780-1850, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Sep 2004–31 Oct 2004

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