It was about the year 1913 that the first glimmerings of what is now called 'modern art' came to us in Sydney ... Colour was the thing it seemed - vibrating colour, and there were new ideas in composition - unorthodox ... We commenced to heighten our colour, working in stippling touches, and to make severe cubistic drawings.
Roland Wakelin, 1928
With its broken brushstrokes of pure vibrating colour, this painting reveals Roland Wakelin's admiration for E Phillips Fox's painting 'The ferry', and for the modernist approach of the post-impressionists encouraged by his teacher Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo. The simplified form and accentuated arabesque of the shoreline foreshadow the earliest abstract paintings in Australia. Wakelin's radical approach however caused a furore among the Royal Art Society's hanging committee in 1916.
oil on canvas on hardboard
68.0 x 122.0 cm board; 64.0 x 118.6 cm sight; 81.4 x 136.0 x 5.3 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. corner, blue oil "R.S.WAKELIN. 1916".
© Roland Wakelin Estate
Shown in 11 exhibitions
Thirty-seventh Annual Exhibition of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales (1916), Exhibition Gallery Department of Public Instruction, Sydney, Sep 1916 -
Roland Wakelin Loan Exhibition, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 14 May 1942–11 Jun 1942
Survey No. 4 (1959), National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne, 1959 -
Pioneer contemporaries: Roy de Maistre, Grace Cossington Smith, Roland Wakelin, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 23 Nov 1960–02 Dec 1960
Purchases and Acquisitions for 1961, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Apr 1962–25 May 1962
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
Roland Wakelin retrospective (1967):
Sydney Harbour 1794-1979, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 03 Aug 1979–26 Aug 1979
Twentieth century Australian masterworks from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Fred Williams Pilbara series from the collection of CRA Limited, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, 04 Oct 1985–06 Nov 1985
Parallel Visions: Twenty-two artists from the Australian collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Feb 2002–May 2003
Sydney Moderns, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Jul 2013–07 Oct 2013
Referenced in 25 publications
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 97 (colour illus.).
Emma Collerton, Look, 'A passionate artist and teacher', pg. 46, Sydney, May 2011, 46.
Douglas Dundas, Roland Wakelin retrospective, 'Introduction', pg. 3-6, Sydney, 1967, 4, 7. cat.no. 6
Mary Eagle, Australian Modern Painting Between the Wars 1914-1939, 'Light in Sydney', pg. 30-41, Sydney, 1989, 2 (colour illus.), 32, 33, 209. title page
Deborah Edwards, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Moderns', pg. 103-104, Sydney, 2000, 103, 106 (colour illus.), 302.
Deborah Edwards, Sydney moderns: art for a new world, 'Colour, light and rhythm: tools for modernity', pg. 21-33, Sydney, 2013, 21, 24, 28 (colour illus.), 42, 317.
Sarah Engledow, Portrait (no.28), 'Lovers of light', pg. 16-21, Canberra, Winter 2008, 17.
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 133 (colour illus.).
Heather Johnson, Parallel visions: works from the Australian collection, 'Roy de Maistre / Roland Wakelin', pg. 48-59, Sydney, 2002, 48, 55 (colour illus.), 146, 147.
Hendrik Kolenberg, Lloyd Rees Drawings - Centenary Retrospective, 'Introduction', pg. 7-19, Sydney, 1995, 8.
Macquarie Galleries, Pioneer contemporaries: Roy de Maistre, Grace Cossington Smith, Roland Wakelin, Sydney, 1960. cat.no. 25; dated 1917
Ewen McDonald, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'From Colonialism to late Modernism', pg. 7-106, Sydney, 1994, 30 (colour illus.).
Sandra McGrath, Sydney Harbour Paintings from 1794, Milton, 1979, 54 (colour illus.).
Barry Pearce and Patrick McCaughey, Twentieth century Australian masterworks from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Fred Williams Pilbara Series, Tokyo, 1985, 16 (colour illus.). cat.no. 1
Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 21, 22 (colour illus.).
Barry Pearce, Fifteen decades of Australian paintings, Sydney, 1981, (colour illus.).
Royal Art Society of New South Wales, Royal Art Society of New South Wales 37th annual exhibition (1916), Sydney, 1916, 15. cat.no. 75; price: 75 guineas
Bernard William Smith and Terry Smith, Australian painting 1788-1990, 'Leviticus 1913-32', pg. 167-204, South Melbourne, 1991, 174 (illus.), 560, 574. plate no. 100
Daniel Thomas, Grace Cossington Smith, 'Modernity and inwards', pg. 102-107, Canberra, 2005, 103.
Daniel Thomas., Sydney Harbour, ‘Introduction', Sydney, 1963. cat.no. 31
Roland Wakelin, Art and Australia, 'Recollections of a Post-Impressionist', pg. 290-291, Sydney, Mar 1967, 291.
Roland Wakelin, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Post Impressionism in Sydney: Some personal recollections', pg. 91-95, Sydney, Jan 1962, 92.
Leslie Walton, The art of Roland Wakelin, 'Early influences', pg. 12-16, Sydney, 1987, 13, 15, 40 (colour illus.). plate no. 7
Donald Williams, In our own image: the story of Australian art, Sydney, 1995, 100 (colour illus.).
Project 41 - the mosaic, the grid, Sydney, 1983, 2.