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An image of Pan by Sydney Long

Sydney Long

(Australia, England 20 Aug 1871 – 23 Jan 1955)

Media category
Materials used
oil on canvas

107.5 x 178.8 cm stretcher; 155.7 x 228.0 x 9.0 cm frame

Signature & date
Signed l.r. corner, blue oil "SID LONG". Not dated.
Gift of J R McGregor 1943
Accession number
© Estate of Sydney Long. Courtesy Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia
19th c Australian art
Further information

When Sydney Long exhibited his art-nouveau masterpiece ‘Pan’ in 1898, it cemented his reputation as a painter who was leading a shift toward a more abstract painting in Australia. Praised locally, Long was also recognised by the influential British art journal ‘Studio’ as a painter of ‘imaginative design’ and one who, through works such as ‘Pan’, contributed a distinct vision to late 19th-century Australian painting.1

Born in Goulburn, NSW in 1871, Long arrived in Sydney in the early 1890s. While an art student under Julian Ashton, he began exhibiting works at the Art Society of NSW in 1894. With his artistic debut - the critically acclaimed ‘By tranquil waters’ (purchased by the Art Gallery of NSW in that year) - Long initiated a series of bush idylls in which he increasingly abstracted natural forms for an expression of place based on moods of enchantment.

‘Pan’ is the finest of Long’s 1890s series of pastoral paintings. The work is set in the twilight of a gum-treed Arcadia, where the pagan god of nature plays his reed pipe to a gathering of nymphs and satyrs. Allusions to Pan’s music are used to visually transpose the landscape into a series of rhythmic art-nouveau arabesques, whose movement is echoed in the crooks and curves of the dancing bodies of the bush pagans. Fusing decorative style with mythological subject matter, Long presented an alternative vision of the Australian landscape, painting it not in terms of its representational qualities, but transforming it into an arena of sensation and emotion.

‘Pan’ is a key example of Symbolist-inspired painting in Australia. Symbolism was an influential late 19th-century movement characterised by works expressing ideas, mood and dream states over material realities, and its artists often employed art nouveau’s sensuous arabesque forms as a means of expressing these metaphysical domains. Pan’s subject matter similarly reflects the Symbolist resurgence of Arcadian pagan gods as poetic embodiments of bucolic liberty and erotic frisson.

Reflecting the influence of international art practices, ‘Pan’ was something of a feat given that Long had not yet ventured out of his home state of New South Wales when he painted it. It may represent the influence of art journals such as ‘Studio’ on Long’s artistic imagination, yet ‘Pan’ also demonstrates his inspired interpretation of international art forms for a culturally specific and modern representation of the Australian landscape during the period when it developed as a potent artistic symbol of the nation’s identity.

1 ‘Studio’, London, vol 13, no 62, May 1898, pp 268–69

Bibliography (40)

Joanna Mendelssohn, Art & Australia, ‘Australian symbolism: the art of dreams’, pg. 309, Paddington, Summer 2012, 309 (colour illus.). exhibition review

Denise Mimmocchi, Australian Symbolism: the art of dreams, ‘Sydney Long: Arcadian myth and the decorative landscape’, pg. 110-122, Sydney, 2012, 111, 114-115 (colour illus.).

Anne Gray, Sydney Long: the spirit of the land, 'The spirit of the land', pg. 45-70, Canberra, 2012, cover (colour illus., detail), 45, 49, 50, 51, 52 (colour illus., detail), 53, 54, 60, 64, 65, 68, 94 (colour illus.), 95, 97, 99, 105. 11

Denise Mimmocchi, Look, 'Arcadia with gum trees', pg. 31, Newtown, Jun 2009, 31 (colour illus.).

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Luke Slattery, The Australian financial review, 'Nature boy pays tribute to the great pan', pg. 6-7, Sydney, 14 Oct 2005, (illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 123 (colour illus.).

Norman Talbot, Myths & Stories, Lies & Truth, Australia, 1998, cover (illus.).

Joanna Mendelssohn, Brought to Light: Australian Art 1850–1965 from the Queensland Art Gallery collection, 'Dancing across the Landscape. Sydney Long Spirit of the Plains', pg. 76-79, Brisbane, 1998, 76, 78 (colour illus.), 79.

Christopher Allen, Art in Australia: from Colonization to Postmodernism, London, 1997, 86, 87 (illus.). plate no. 66

Ewen McDonald, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'From Colonialism to late Modernism', pg. 7-106, Sydney, 1994, 22 (colour illus.).

Leigh Astbury, Sunlight and shadow: Australian impressionist painters 1880-1900, 'Nature and the imagination', pg. 155-175, Rushcutters Bay, 1989, 174, 175 (colour illus.). plate no. 130

Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 20.

Ron Radford, Art Gallery of Ballarat and Australian Gallery Directors Council, Art nouveau in Australia, Sydney, 1980. 'Pan' only shown at S.H. Ervin Gallery July-August 1980.

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Joanna Mendelssohn, Sydney Long, 'Introduction', pg. 4-7, Sydney, 1979, cover (colour illus.), 5, 10. 12

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 87 (colour illus.).

Author Unknown, The Art Gallery of New South Wales Picture Book, Sydney, 1972, 87 (illus.).

Bernard William Smith, Australian painting 1788-1970, South Melbourne, 1971, 102-103.

Robert Hughes, The art of Australia, Ringwood, 1970, 12, 79 (illus.), 80.

Bernard William Smith, A catalogue of Australian oil paintings in the National Art Gallery of New South Wales 1875-1952, Sydney, 1953, 126.

Herbert Badham, A study of Australian art, Sydney, 1949, 70.

Sydney Long, Sydney Long, A.R.E., loan exhibition 1941, Sydney, 1941. 47

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 23 Jul 1938, page unknown.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Triad : a journal devoted to literacy, pictorial, musical and dramatic art, Sydney, 02 Mar 1925, 48.

Julian Ashton., Daily telegraph, ‘National Art Gallery: The Australian Court’, Sydney, 27 Sep 1905, unknown.

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Editor Unknown (Editor), The studio, London, Nov 1898, 198.

Editor Unknown (Editor), Bulletin, Sydney, 03 Sep 1898, page unknown.

Society of Artists, Society of Artists Spring Exhibition (1898), Sydney, Sep 1898, 4 (illus.). 81. This image appears opposite page 4 and is a line illustration.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Society of Artists' Exhibition', Sydney, 27 Aug 1898. see AGNSW Press Clippings 1894-1906, pg. 187.

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Exhibition history (8)

Society of Artists Spring Exhibition (1898), Vickery's Chambers, Sydney, 27 Aug 1898–Sep 1898

Sydney Long, A.R.E.: loan exhibition, National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 09 Apr 1941–31 May 1941

A memorial exhibition of a selection of paintings by Sydney Long 1878-1955, National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Oct 1955 -

Sydney Long (1979), S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 22 Aug 1979–07 Nov 1979

1900: Art at the crossroads:

Heaven on Earth: Visions of Arcadia, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre, 01 Oct 2005–27 Nov 2005

Australian Collection Focus: Sydney Long: Pan, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Jun 2009–30 Aug 2009

Sydney Long: the spirit of the land, National Gallery of Australia, Parkes, 17 Aug 2012–11 Nov 2012