Julian Ashton's 'Evening, Merri Creek' 1882, was claimed by the artist as the first true 'plein air' oil painting in Australia, and therefore a key example for his encouragement of young artists to work directly in the open.
When Ashton first exhibited his painting of the tranquil waterway near Melbourne, a reviewer commented:
"Mr Ashton has also on view a large landscape in oils, called 'Winter's Evening', a view on the Merri Creek. It is the time when the light is low, just before the sun sinks to its rest. The whole landscape is suffused with a glow from the setting luminary striking athwart the valley, lighting up the middle distance, which is very well rendered, and shimmering over the surface of the shallow water, above which some swallows are winging their arrowy flight. Gum trees line the sloping sides of the stream, the foreground being broken up with large boulders and reeds, the near foreground falling into shadow, which, like the crest of the ploughed field in the distance, is growing grey as sober evening with dewy fingers draws 'The gradual dusky veil'. The tone and colour of the landscape is very agreeable, the water admirable, and the whole work is in good keeping".
'The Australasian sketcher with pen and pencil', Melbourne, 11 November 1882
The Merri Creek runs for approximately 70 kms, beginning near Wallan, a town on Melbourne's northern outskirts, and joining the Yarra River at Dight's fall, Collingwood.
© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2006
oil on canvas
91.5 x 122.0 cm
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.l., "J.R. ASHTON/ OCT 1882".
Gift of Howard Ashton 1942
Not on display
Where the work was made
Shown in 5 exhibitions
(Julian Ashton), The Studio of Julian Rossi Ashton, Melbourne, Nov 1882 -
The Julian Ashton exhibition (1920), Royal Art Society of New South Wales, Lavender Bay, 13 Feb 1920–28 Feb 1920
Three generations of painters: Julian Ashton, Howard Ashton, Richard Ashton, Blaxland Gallery, Sydney, 10 May 1938–20 May 1938
Julian Ashton, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 14 Nov 1981–31 Jan 1982
Golden Summers - Heidelberg and beyond:
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 30 Oct 1985–27 Jan 1986
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 21 Feb 1986–20 Apr 1986
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 09 May 1986–29 Jun 1986
- Art Gallery of Western Australia, Australia 30 Jul 1986–14 Sep 1986
Referenced in 15 publications
Julian Ashton, Now came still evening on, Sydney, 1941, 28.
Blaxland Gallery, Three generations of painters: Julian Ashton, Howard Ashton, Richard Ashton, Sydney, 1938. cat.no. 7; titled 'Evening on the Merri Creek, Melbourne'; price: 100 Gns.
Tim Bonyhady, Images in opposition: Australian landscape painting 1801–1890, 'Contrasting lights', pg.135-154, Melbourne, 1985, 140, 141 (illus.), 178.
Jane Clark and Bridget Whitelaw, Golden summers: Heidelberg and beyond, Melbourne, 1985, 59 (colour illus.).
Dinah Dysart, Julian Ashton 1851-1942, Sydney, 1982, 3, 12. cat.no. 11; titled 'Evening - Merri Creek'
James Gleeson, Impressionist painters 1881-1930, St Kilda, 1971, 83.
Dr Ursula Hoff, Charles Conder - his Australian years, Melbourne, 1960, 26 (illus.). plate no. 1
Robert Hughes, The art of Australia, Melbourne, 1970, 69.
John McDonald, Art of Australia. Vol 1: Exploration to Federation, ‘The only truly representative Australian school of painting’, pg. 357-418, Sydney, 2008, 360, 361 (colour illus.).
Barry Pearce, Charles Conder 1868-1909, 'Between worlds: Conder in Australia', pg. 12-31, Sydney, 2003, 15, 17.
Bernard William Smith, Australian Painting 1788-1960, South Melbourne, 1962, 66.
Bernard William Smith, A catalogue of Australian oil paintings in the National Art Gallery of New South Wales 1875-1952, Sydney, 1953, 18. cat.no. 17; titled 'Evening - Merri Creek'
Vivienne Webb, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Golden age', pg. 37-38, Sydney, 2000, 42 (colour illus.), 43, 300.
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Australasian sketcher with pen and pencil, Melbourne, 11 Nov 1882, 9. review of Julian Ashton's exhibition held at his studio at 95 Collins Street, Melbourne in November 1882; see WORKSHEET for transcript of article by Mary Eagle
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Julian Ashton book, Sydney, 1920, (colour illus.). plate no. XVII