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Australian art

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Blue Mountain tunnel

incorrectly inscribed 1892 (1891)


Arthur Streeton

Australia, England, Australia

08 Apr 1867 - 01 Sep 1943


Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts are celebrated for having given a distinctly Australian flavour to landscape painting at the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, painting what is popularly considered an Australian version of Impressionism. It was Streeton's ability to create a particularly convincing sensation of Australian space and light in his paintings, with fresh and vigorous paint handling, that most sets him apart from his friends and contemporaries. On the recommendation of Julian Ashton, his painting 'Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide' 1890, was purchased by the Gallery in the year it was painted. It was also the first painting by him to be bought by a public gallery, precipitating his move to Sydney. Furthermore, it is one of several masterpieces by Streeton in the Gallery's collection, rivalling his archetypal 'Fire's on' 1891 (purchased in 1893), 'The railway station, Redfern' 1893, and 'Cremorne pastoral' 1895.

This watercolour is not a study for the painting 'Fire's on' but an independent work, preceding the painting rather than following it, contrary to its inscribed date. Streeton enthusiastically referred to it in a letter to Frederick McCubbin in October 1891 (refer to Croll 'Smike to Bulldog' 1946, pg. 20-22) and it was included in the Gallery's exhibition of selected works from its watercolour competition of 1891. It also attracted the attention of a reviewer for the 'Sydney Morning Herald' who, on 1 December 1891, noted that this watercolour:

'... does not appear to have been viewed with favour by the trustees. But it will more than repay a second look, and there may be some visitors who might think its merits entitle it to a place beside some of the pictures chosen. The subject is a 'Blue Mountain Tunnel' and the choice appears to us to be as characteristic as the treatment is admirable. There is the iron track, with the sandy mounds turned up on each side, and the masses of rock through which the workers have driven their way - colour, tone and subject all strikingly real.'

Streeton entered the watercolour in the Gallery's 1891 watercolour prize unsigned or inscribed, as was required, dating it (incorrectly) only on its return to him.


Other Titles

Blue Mountain Tunnel

Cutting the tunnel, Blue Mountains

Place where the work was made

Lapstone New South Wales Australia


incorrectly inscribed 1892 (1891)

Media category


Materials used

pencil, watercolour, opaque white highlights on paper


73.6 x 58.5 cm sheet; 101.2 x 83.0 x 3.5mm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l. corner, brown watercolour "Streeton/ 1892 [sic]".


Gift of Howard Hinton 1937


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Arthur Streeton

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 15 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 30 publications


Maurice Brodzky (Editor), Table talk, 'The Victorian artists exhibition', pg. 7, Melbourne, 27 May 1892, 7.

Jane Clark, Golden summers: Heidelberg and beyond, 'Naturalism and Nationalism', pg. 128-149, Melbourne, 1985, 140.

Robert Croll (Editor), Smike to bulldog: letters from Sir Arthur Streeton to Tom Roberts, Sydney, 1946, 5, 20, 21, 47 (colour illus.), dust jacket (colour illus.).

Robert Croll, Tom Roberts: father of Australian landscape painting, Melbourne, 1935, 186.

Jane de Teliga, Australian images: Prints, drawings and watercolours from the collection, Sydney, 1979, 9.

Geoffrey Dutton, Arthur Streeton 1867-1943 a biographical sketch, Brisbane, 1987, 32, 82-83 (colour illus.).

Gavin Fry, Paint on the tracks: Australian artists and the railway, 'Introduction', pg. 7-10, Sydney, 1994, 7, 20, 21 (colour illus.), 48. 5

Ann Galbally and Anne Gray (Editors), Letters from Smike: the letters of Arthur Streeton, 1890-1943, Melbourne, 1989, 36, 37, 40.

Ann Galbally, Arthur Streeton, Melbourne, 1969, 80 (illus.). 45

R.H. Goddard, Lionel Lindsay and C.B. Newling, A memorial volume to Howard Hinton patron of art, Sydney, 1951, 139 (illus.). 117; titled 'Cutting the tunnel'

Anne Gray, Radical revisionism: an anthology of writings on Australian art, 'Arthur Streeton: shadows and symbols', pg. 175-181, Brisbane, 2005, 175.

Robert Hughes, The art of Australia, 'The heidelberg school 1885-96', pg. 53-73, Melbourne, 1970, 63.

Hendrik Kolenberg, 19th century Australian watercolours, drawing and pastels from the Gallery's collection, 'Introduction', pg. 6-16, Sydney, 2005, 4 (colour illus., detail), 12, 100, 101 (colour illus.).

Hendrik Kolenberg, Australian watercolours 1880s to 1990s, 'Introduction: Painting in watercolour', pg. 8-16, Sydney, 1995, 10, 24 (colour illus.), 25. 9

Hendrik Kolenberg, Look, 'Australian images from the past: whether rarely seen or familiar, these works move and delight us', pg. 24-27, Sydney, Apr 2005, 26.

Lionel Lindsay, Howard Hinton memorial exhibition, 'Howard Hinton, OBE', pg. 2-3, Sydney, 1948, 18. 117; titled 'Cutting the tunnel'

Lionel Lindsay, Streeton memorial exhibition souvenir catalogue, Sydney, 1945. 59

Alan McCulloch, The golden age of Australian painting - Impressionism and the Heidelberg school, Melbourne, 1969, 178 (illus.). plate no. 36

Barry Pearce, Art and Australia (Vol. 23, No. 4), '"Fire's on": some thoughts on a national icon', pg. 527-530, Sydney, Winter 1986, 530 (colour illus.).

Barry Pearce and Haruo Arikawa, Two hundred years of Australian painting: nature, people and art in the southern continent, Tokyo, 1992, 79 (colour illus.).

Jeff Rigby., Oz Arts magazine [issue 9], 'Fire's on: the circumstances surrounding the painting by Arthur Streeton of 'Fire's on!' and the Lapstone railway tunnel deviation of 1891', Wentworth Falls, Spring 2016, (colour illus.).

Geoffrey Smith, Arthur Streeton, 1867-1943, '"City of laughing loveliness! sun-girdled Queen!" Sydney 1890-97', pg. 67-130, South Yarra, 1995, 82, 83 (colour illus.). 32

D.H. Souter, Art and architecture: the journal of the Institute of Architects of New South Wales, 'Arthur Streeton, artist and his Australian work', pg. 225-229, Sydney, 1905, 226 (illus.).

Arthur Streeton, The Arthur Streeton catalogue, Melbourne, 1935, 116. 115; titled 'Fires on, Glenbrook'

Trustees of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australian watercolours from the National Art Gallery collection 1836 to 1946, Sydney, 1946, 4-5, 9. 12

Sydney Ure Smith and Leon Gellert (Editors), Art in Australia [series 3, no. 60], Sydney, Aug 1935, 29 (colour illus.).

Christopher Wray, Arthur Streeton: painter of light, Milton, 1993, 80.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Opening the new gallery, the Society of Artists, an arts and crafts exhibition', pg. 7, Sydney, 02 Oct 1897, 7.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 'An exhibition of watercolours', pg. 5, Sydney, 01 Dec 1891, 5.

Editor Unknown (Editor), Magazine of art, 'Spring exhibitions of pictures, Sydney, N.W.Wales', pg. 341, London, May 1898, 341.