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Australian art

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An Impressionist (Tom Roberts)

(circa 1889)


Charles Conder

England, Australia

24 Oct 1868 - 09 Feb 1909


This lively and evocative portrait of Roberts by his friend Charles Conder is a rare work produced during the artist's brief Australian years (1884–90). Roberts is depicted in a relaxed and characteristic pose, on a modernist scale. The playful zig-zagged background – based on a surveyor's chain, referring to the young artist's early employment in Sydney – prefigures Conder's decorative style, characteristic of his later European work, as well as echoing the cover of the 9 by 5 exhibition catalogue which he designed.


Place where the work was made



(circa 1889)

Media category


Materials used

oil on cedar panel


28.5 x 23.4 cm board; 50.5 x 35.0 x 4.5 cm frame :

0 - Whole, 28 x 14.7 cm, SIGHT DIMENSION

Signature & date

Signed u.r., blue oil "... C/ -hAR/ -LES/ CONDER". Not dated.


Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1997

Accession number


Artist information

Charles Conder

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 6 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 31 publications


Leigh Astbury, Sunlight and shadow: Australian impressionist painters 1880-1900, Rushcutters Bay, 1989, 12, (colour illus.). 4; titled 'An Impressionist'

Angela Bennie, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Not just any Tom...', pg. 12, Sydney, 13 May 1997, 12 (illus.). Arts Section.

Delys Bird, Dennis Haskell and Ron Shapiro (Editors), Westerly, Nedlands, Winter 1998, 4.

Tim Bonyhady, Images in opposition: Australian landscape painting 1801–1890, 'The artist in society', pg. 1-22, Melbourne, 1985, 18 (illus., detail). titled: 'Sketch portrait of Tom Roberts'

Susan Borham (Editor in Chief) and Michael Hutak (Editor), Australian art collector, 'Australian art - it's a local thing', pg. 18, Sydney, Jul 1997-Sep 1997, 15 (colour illus.), 18. 'Artist as a young man'. Report on Melbourne Art Fair 1997.

Wally Caruana and Jane Clark, The Cambridge companion to Australian Art, 'Buying and selling Australian art: a brief historical survey', pg. 290-306, Port Melbourne, 2011, 293, 366. 21.1 (colour illus.), between pg. 268 and 269.

Bonny Cassidy., Tertangala, 'Charles Conder: a retrospective 1868-1909', Wollongong, Aug 2003. Exhibition review.

Jane Clark and Bridget Whitelaw, Golden summers: Heidelberg and beyond, Melbourne, 1985, 124 (colour illus.).

Lauraine Diggins, 19th & 20th century Australian painting, sculpture and decorative arts 1997, North Caulfield, 1997, 14, 15 (colour illus.).

Sarah Engledow, Impressions: painting light & life, Catalogue essay, pg. 7-16, Canberra, 2011, 10, 48 (caption), 49 (colour illus.). 16

Anne Gray, Face: Australian portraits 1880-1960, Canberra, 2010, 52 (colour illus.).

Anne Grey, Tom Roberts, 'Tom Roberts: La vita con brio', pg. 11-30, Canberra, 2015, 16 (colour illus.), 347.

Peter Hill., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Lust for life', Sydney, 19 Jul 2003-20 Jul 2003, (colour illus.). Spectrum Supplement

Dr Ursula Hoff, Charles Conder - his Australian years, Melbourne, 1960, (illus.). 32; plate no. 17

Dr Ursula Hoff, Charles Conder, Melbourne, 1972, 32, 101. c47

Terry Ingram, The Australian financial review, 'Saleroom. Ultimate grater on offer again', pg. 43, Sydney, 12 Jun 1997, 43.

Helen Johnson (Editor), Antipodes: antiques & fine art [vol. 1, no. 2], 'Sold at the Fair... $265,000', pg. 83, Victoria, 1997, 83 (colour illus.). Photograph of Lauraine Diggins and Michael Blanche at the Melbourne Art Fair in 1997.

Joseph Brown Gallery, Joseph Brown Gallery, 10-24 September 1981, Melbourne, 1981, front cover (colour illus.), (illus.). 40; titled 'Sketch portrait of Tom Roberts'

Hendrik Kolenberg, Look, 'An impressionist gift', pg. 13, Heidelberg, Jul 1997, cover (colour illus.), 3 (colour illus.), 13 (colour illus.).

Terence Lane, Age, 'Southern lights', pg. 14, Melbourne, 24 Mar 2007, 14 (colour illus.).

Terence Lane, Australian Impressionism, 'The 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition - The Challenge of the Sketch', pg. 157-163, Melbourne, 2007, 330, 167 (colour illus.). 9.18

Patrick H McCarthy, Bailed up: the story behind the painting, Sydney, 2006, 14-15, 16 (colour illus.).

Barry Pearce, Charles Conder 1868-1909, 'Between worlds: Conder in Australia', pg. 12-31, Sydney, 2003, 26, 65, 94 (colour illus.), 95, 193. 24

Barry Pearce, Look: 1953-2003 celebrating 50 years, 'The enigmatic Charles Conder: spotlight on a lesser known Heidelberg painter', pg. 8-11, Sydney, May 2003, 11 (colour illus.).

Barry Pearce., Australian artist, 'Charles Conder: lost and found voice of the Heidelberg School', Chatswood, Jun 2003.

William Splatt and Susan Bruce, Australian impressionist painters: a pictorial history of the Heidelberg school, Windsor, 1981, 4 (colour illus.). plate no. 3

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Gallery 2003 highlights', pg. 13, Sydney, Nov 2002, 13 (colour illus.).

Helen Topliss, The artist's camp; plein air painting in Melbourne 1885-1898, Melbourne, 1984, 26, 40 (illus.). 3; titled 'An Impressionist'

Helen Topliss, Tom Roberts 1856-1931: a catalogue raisonné. Volume 1 - Text, Melbourne, 1985, 30 (illus.). 47

Vivienne Webb, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Golden age', pg. 37-38, Sydney, 2000, 38, 54 (colour illus.), 300.

Judith White, art lovers: the story of the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1953-2013, 'Chapter 5: Be part of the art 1988-2000', pp. 111-138, Sydney, 2013, 115, 257 (colour illus.).