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
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
© Estate of Sydney Long. Courtesy Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia
Shown in 8 exhibitions
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:
- Royal Academy of Arts, London 15 Jan 2000–03 Apr 2000
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, United States of America 19 May 2000–13 Sep 2000
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
Referenced in 40 publications
Christopher Allen, Art in Australia: from Colonization to Postmodernism, London, 1997, 86, 87 (illus.). plate no. 66
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 87 (colour illus.).
Julian Ashton., Daily telegraph, ‘National Art Gallery: The Australian Court’, Sydney, 27 Sep 1905, unknown.
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
Herbert Badham, A study of Australian art, Sydney, 1949, 70.
Ann Dumas, 1900: Art at the crossroads, 'Bathers and nudes', pg. 102, London, 2000, 102, 106 (colour illus.), 403, 438. cat.no. 33
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. cat.no. 11
Robert Hughes, The art of Australia, Melbourne, 1970, 12, 79 (illus.), 80.
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 123 (colour illus.).
Grahame Kime., Heaven on earth: Visions of arcadia, 'Visions of Arcadia', Gymea, 2005, (colour illus.). not paginated; list of works
Sydney Long, Sydney Long, A.R.E., loan exhibition 1941, Sydney, 1941. cat.no. 47
Ewen McDonald, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'From Colonialism to late Modernism', pg. 7-106, Sydney, 1994, 22 (colour illus.).
Joanna Mendelssohn, Art & Australia, ‘Australian symbolism: the art of dreams’, pg. 309, Sydney, Summer 2012, 309 (colour illus.). exhibition review
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.
Joanna Mendelssohn, The life and work of Sydney Long, Sydney, 1979, front dust jacket (colour illus.), frontispiece (colour illus.), 9-10, 46 (colour illus.), 57-58, 64, 73. 74-75, 78-80, 109, 118, 229. frontispiece double-page colour illus.; cat.no. 60
Joanna Mendelssohn, Sydney Long, 'Introduction', pg. 4-7, Sydney, 1979, cover (colour illus.), 5, 10. cat.no. 12
Denise Mimmocchi, Australian Collection Focus: Sydney Long - Pan, 'Sydney Long: Pan', pg. 1-12, Sydney, 2009, cover (colour illus., detail), 1, 2 (colour illus.), 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12.
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.).
Denise Mimmocchi, Look, 'Arcadia with gum trees', pg. 31, Sydney, Jun 2009, 31 (colour illus.).
National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Catalogue of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales 1899, Sydney, 1899. cat.no. 269, Oil Paintings-Australian, titled 'Pan'
Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 20.
Ursula Prunster, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Home and abroad', pg. 73-74, Sydney, 2000, 85 (colour illus.), 301.
Ron Radford, Our country: Australian Federation landscape 1900-1914, 'The symbolic landscape', pg. 60-92, Adelaide, 2001, 88.
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.
Luke Slattery, The Australian financial review, 'Nature boy pays tribute to the great pan', pg. 6-7, Sydney, 14 Oct 2005, (illus.).
Bernard William Smith, A catalogue of Australian oil paintings in the National Art Gallery of New South Wales 1875-1952, Sydney, 1953, 126.
Bernard William Smith, Australian painting 1788-1970, South Melbourne, 1971, 102-103.
Bernard William Smith, Place, taste and tradition: a study of Australian art since 1788, 'Impressionism in Australia', pg. 112-145, South Melbourne, 1979, 134 (illus.), 135. plate no. 47
Society of Artists, Society of Artists Spring Exhibition (1898), Sydney, Sep 1898, 4 (illus.). cat.no. 81. This image appears opposite page 4 and is a line illustration.
D.H. Souter, Art and architecture, 'Sid Long, Landscapist', pg. 64, Sydney, Mar 1905, 64.
Norman Talbot, Myths & Stories, Lies & Truth, Australia, 1998, cover (illus.).
Author Unknown, The Art Gallery of New South Wales Picture Book, Sydney, 1972, 87 (illus.).
Editor Unknown (Editor), A.A.A : all about Australians, Sydney, Mar 1902, 216 (illus.).
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Studio, London, Feb 1899, 58 (illus.).
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Triad : a journal devoted to literacy, pictorial, musical and dramatic art, Sydney, 02 Mar 1925, 48.
Editor Unknown (Editor), The studio, London, Nov 1898, 198.
Editor Unknown (Editor), Bulletin, Sydney, 03 Sep 1898, page unknown.
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 23 Jul 1938, page unknown.
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Society of Artists' Exhibition', Sydney, 27 Aug 1898. see AGNSW Press Clippings 1894-1906, pg. 187.
Editor Unknown (Editor), Daily telegraph, 'Society of Artists. Annual Spring Show. A Fine Collection. Some Melbourne Work', Sydney, 27 Aug 1898, (illus.). see AGNSW Press Clipping 1894-1906, pg. 187