Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information




Australian art

View More:


Rainy day



Charles Conder

England, Australia

24 Oct 1868 - 09 Feb 1909


Charles Conder established his reputation as a young artist of note in Sydney by the late 1880s through this exceptional ability to capture in his work the poetic expanse of the city's atmosphere - from the dazzling light of Sydney's sun-filled beaches, as well as the colours and melancholic mood of its wet weather days. On a wet Saint Valentine's day in 1888, the lush colours of the Chinese market gardens of what was then Randwick, caught Conder's attention. He beautifully conveyed both the palette and mood of the rainy day on the back of cedar cigar box, creating one of the most distinct works of his Sydney experimental oeuvre.

'Rainy day' is composed with a palette of evocative greens which are grounded by the dark brown reds of shrubbery, highlighted by the bright blue garments of workers in the gardens, and set against a pink-infused cloudy grey sky. An intensely rich and poetic orchestration of colour, this small experimental work has a wonderful sense of immediacy, perhaps more than any other of Conder's panel paintings produced at this time.

The subject of 'Rainy day' is unusual in late 19th century Australian art. The depiction of Chinese immigrants workers, certainly within the poetic terms of Conder's depiction, is possibly unprecedented. Rather than inscribing the usual sense of 'exoticism of the Orient', or the blatant racism that recur in paintings of Chinese Australians at this time, 'Rainy day' is instead a elegiac evocation of place, a mood that is furthered by the presence of the figures who are shown as being at one with the landscape. The Chinese growers gardens remain today in what is now La Perouse, imbuing the work, whose subject is of historical note, with an unexpected sense of continuity with the present.


Other Titles

Rainy day, Randwick

Chinaman's Garden



Media category


Materials used

oil on cedar cigar box lid


12.6 x 19.5 cm board; 34.0 x 40.5 x 4.5 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed l.l., black oil "C. Conder". Not dated.
Signed and dated, l.r. black oil "... 14 Feb. 1888. .../ C. E. Conder".


Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 2017

Accession number


Artist information

Charles Conder

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 8 publications


Our art critic, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Spring art show', pg. 4, Sydney, 24 Sep 1946, 4.

Mary Eagle, The oil paintings of Charles Conder in the National Gallery of Australia, 'The gray and gold 1988', pg. 32-40, Canberra, 1997, 37 (illus.). black and white photograph of the work on display at AGNSW in 1918

Dr Ursula Hoff, Charles Conder, Melbourne, 1972, 99. 13

Dr Ursula Hoff, Charles Conder: 1868-1909, Sydney, 1966. titled 'Rainy day, Randwick; H.5

Terence Lane, Australian Impressionism, 'The 9 by 5 impressionism exhibition - the challenge of the sketch', pg. 147-156, Melbourne, 2007, 158, 159 (colour illus.). 2

National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Loan exhibition of Australian art: collection of paintings and drawings by Australian artists executed during the last 25 to 35 Years, Sydney, 1918, n.pag.. 7

National Gallery of Victoria [Swanston Street], Loan exhibition of Australian paintings, Melbourne, 1925: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1925, 20. titled 'Chinaman's Garden'; 295

John Saxby (Editor), Look, Sydney, May 2018-Jun 2018, 16 (colour illus.).