Bronte, Queen's Birthday
24 Oct 1868 - 09 Feb 1909
In the late 1880s, when Charles Conder and Tom Roberts were developing their vernacular Impressionist art forms, Sydney’s light-filled beaches became crucial subjects in their work. The pair had met in Sydney in 1887 and by the following year were painting together at the headlands of Coogee Beach. Exploring sites around Sydney’s coastline, they seized on the sun-infused landscapes to further their exploration of local light and colour. Introducing the beach as a subject to Australian Impressionism, their paintings came to influence their friend Arthur Streeton who moved to Sydney from Melbourne in 1890 and developed, from his observations of his peers’ works, his own characteristic impressions of Sydney’s coast-bound landscapes.
Conder’s exploration of the local conditions of light and colour on Sydney’s beaches resulted in some of the young painter’s most innovative experiments. In this context 'Bronte, Queen’s Birthday' is an exceptional work in the artist’s early oeuvre. Conder here invokes the crisp ambience of the beachscape on a Sydney winter’s day while at the same time composing the scene with an Aestheticised sense of colour harmony. The hues of Conder’s signature red accents, repeated throughout works at this time via details of the dress or accoutrements of his figures, are here infused throughout the landscape in the pink tonalities of sky, cliffs and sand. Conder had noted the Whistlerian approach of colour harmony composition, but 'Bronte, Queen’s Birthday' reveals how he adapted these methods as his own. His works developed from his observations of nature, but he too harnessed the suggestive power of Aesthetic colour practice to produce landscapes of a dreamy distinction, envisioning a new poetry of place.
Cat. no. 7
oil on wood panel
11.1 x 19.0 cm, 21.0 x 28.5 x 4.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.r. corner "Charles Conder". Not dated.
Purchased 2017 with funds provided by the Australian Masterpiece Fund, including the following major donors: Barbara Gole (in memory of), Antoinette Albert, Andrew Cameron AM & Cathy Cameron, Rowena Danziger AM & Ken Coles AM, Kiera Grant, Alexandra Joel & Philip Mason, Carole Lamerton & John Courtney, Alf Moufarrige AO, Elizabeth Ramsden, Susan Rothwell, Denis Savill, Penelope Seidler AM, Denyse Spice, Georgie Taylor, Max and Nola Tegel, Ruth Vincent
Shown in 3 exhibitions
The D.R. Sheumack collection of Australian paintings (1983), S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Rocks, 17 May 1983–12 Jun 1983
Charles Conder retrospective (2003-2004):
Australian Impressionism, Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 31 Mar 2007–08 Jul 2007
Referenced in 7 publications
Charles Conder 1868-1909, Sydney, 2003, 15, 75 (illus.).
Dr Ursula Hoff, Charles Conder - his Australian years, Melbourne, 1960. cat. 7a
Dr Ursula Hoff, Charles Conder, Melbourne, 1972. cat. 29
Mervyn Horton (Editor), Art and Australia, Sydney, Jun 1967, 387 (illus.).
Australian Impressionism, Melbourne, 2007, 110.
Justin Miller and Robyn Christie, The D.R. Sheumack Collection: eighty years of Australian painting, Sydney, 1988. n.p., includes colour illustration
John Saxby (Editor), Look, 'Charles Conder: Bronte, Queen's birthday, 1888', Sydney, Nov 2017-Dec 2017, 30, 31 (colour illus.).