Skip to content


An image of The camp, Sirius Cove by Tom Roberts

Tom Roberts

(England, Australia 08 Mar 1856 – 14 Sep 1931)

The camp, Sirius Cove
Place of origin
SydneyNew South WalesAustralia
Media category
Materials used
oil on canvas on paperboard

25.4 x 34.6 cm board; 24.7 x 33.2 cm sight edge; 44.5 x 53.0 x 5.3 cm frame

Signature & date
Signed l.l., red oil "Tom Roberts/ '(illeg)".
Purchased 1940
Accession number
19th c Australian art
Further information

This tiny work belatedly records the artists' encampment at Little Sirius Cove, Sydney Harbour, which Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton shared with others in the early 1880s. The camps became centres for the innovative practice of plein-air painting, which took artists from their studios to work on canvases outdoors.

Roberts depicts his former painting haunt as an idyllic memory, albeit with a photographically sharp focus. It is flawlessly constructed and crisply executed to recall the brightly sunlit scene. Although the artists’ camp is long gone, Roberts’ view of the headland is still recognisable today, close to the present site of Taronga Park Zoo on the Sydney Harbour foreshore.

Bibliography (19)

Leigh Astbury, Tom Roberts, 'Masculinity and Modernism', pg. 124, Adelaide, 1996, 146, 147 (colour illus.), 211 (illus.).

Susan Bruce, A treasury of Australian bush painting, 'A Farewell to the Days of the Pioneers', pg. 46-54, Adelaide, 1979, 44 (illus.). plate no. 34

Mary Eagle, Australian Impressionism, 'Streeton in the City of Laughing Loveliness', pg. 201-208, Melbourne, 2007, 201, 209 (colour illus.). 1

Don Featherstone (Director) and David Woodgate (Producer), The beach, Australia, 2000, 00:18.11 for 30 seconds (colour, detail).

Ann Galbally, Arthur Streeton, 'Sydney: 1890-1897', pg. 20-31, Melbourne, 1969, 22 (illus.). 9; incorrectly dated 1894.

Inverell Art Gallery, Tom Roberts Art Exhibition. Tom Roberts Festival 2001, Inverell, 2001, 10.

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 124 (colour illus.).

Pat Kreuiter, Look, 'Learning to look at art: Introducing and inspiring art lovers of the future', pg. 12-13, Newtown, Oct 2008, 12 (colour illus.). A group of school children are pictured in front of the painting.

Patrick H McCarthy, Bailed up: the story behind the painting, Sydney, 2006, 14-15.

National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Tom Roberts exhibition, National Art Gallery of NSW: souvenir catalogue, Sydney, 1947, 10. 7

Jennifer Slatyer, Imant Tillers: one world many visions, ‘Biographical notes’, pg. 95-108, Canberra, 2006, 95.

William Splatt and Susan Bruce, 100 masterpieces of Australian landscape painting, Melbourne, 1986, 132, 133 (colour illus.). plate no. 63

Daniel Thomas, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Tom Roberts', pg. 466-487, Sydney, Jul 1969, 471 (illus.).

Daniel Thomas., Sydney Harbour, ‘Introduction', Sydney, 1963. 24; incorrectly dated 1893; not paginated

Albie Thoms, Bohemians in the bush: the artists' camps of Mosman, 'The Curlew Camp', pg. 49-69, Sydney, 1991, cover (colour illus.), flyleaf (colour illus.), 59, 79. 68

Helen Topliss, Tom Roberts 1856-1931: a catalogue raisonné. Volume 2 - Plates, Melbourne, 1985. plate no. 31; not paginated

Helen Topliss, The artist's camp; plein air painting in Melbourne 1885-1898, 'The Artist's Camps', pg. 65-143, Melbourne, 1984, 137 (colour illus.). plate no. 179

Helen Topliss, Tom Roberts 1856-1931: a catalogue raisonné. Volume 1 - Text, Melbourne, 1985, 157. 311

Vivienne Webb, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Golden Age', pg. 37-72, Sydney, 2000, 38.

Exhibition history (7)

Tom Roberts - Retrospective Exhibition:

Sydney Harbour: an exhibition to mark the 175th anniversary of the founding of Australia (1963), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Oct 1963–19 Nov 1963

L'Été australien à Montpellier, Musee Fabre, France, 30 Jun 1990–13 Sep 1990

Bohemians in the bush: the artists' camps of Mosman, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Jun 1991–25 Aug 1991

Tom Roberts (1996-1997):

Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000

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