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Blue Mountains



Arthur Streeton

England, Australia

08 Apr 1867 – 01 Sep 1943

Artist profile

  • Details

    Other Titles
    Blasting on Blue Mountains
    Sketch for Fire's On
    Sketch-Blue Mountains
    Cutting a tunnel, Blue Mountains
    Sketch for Blue Mountains
    Place where the work was made
    Lapstone New South Wales Australia
    Media category
    Materials used
    pencil, watercolour, opaque white on ivory wove paper on board
    34.2 x 23.5 cm (irreg.) sheet, 34.6 x 24.1 cm board
    Signature & date

    Signed l.r., brown watercolour "A Streeton". Dated dated l.l., brown watercolour "91".

    Purchased with funds provided by Don Mitchell Bequest Fund and the Australian Prints, Drawings and Watercolours Benefactors' Fund 2014
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Arthur Streeton

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    In late 1891, Streeton spent about 2-3 months living at Glenbrook, in the Blue Mountains, when he painted his iconic masterpiece, 'Fire's on' (Art Gallery of New South Wales collection). 'Fire's on' was the cry of the workers, who were cutting a railway tunnel through the mountains at Lapstone, just before a blast was detonated.

    In a letter to Tom Roberts dated October 1891, Streeton wrote: I've been pegging on at my work between the 'blasts'- & have not been here a fortnight - & have done two w.colour gems - besides a number of sketches - & can do very little more to em strikes me" (Ann Galbally and Anne Gray (editors), 'Letters from Smike: the letters of Arthur Streeton 1890 - 1943', Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1989, p 36).

    The tunnel project was a major feat of engineering and was at the time considered 'one of the greatest wonders of the colony - perhaps it may be said - of the world' (Josiah Hughes, 'Australia revisited in 1890', quoted in Jane Clark and Bridget Whitelaw, 'Golden Summers: Heidelberg and beyond', International Cultural Corporation of Australia and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1985, p 140). Streeton wrote with great enthusiasm of his time there spent painting, observing the work and the workers themselves. What a boom of thunder shakes the rock and me. It echoes through the hills and dies away 'mid the crashing of tons of rock; some lumps fly hundreds of feet sometimes and fall and fly everywhere among the trees; and then a thick cloud laden with fumes of the blasting powder (Streeton to Frederick McCubbin, October 1891, see 'Golden Summers' p 140)

    This watercolour gives the impression of having been executed quickly en plein air, capturing a dramatic moment. The landscape is notational, with the trees in particular having elegant fluidity. The picture plane is compressed, the palette limited and relatively subdued (possibly suggesting it was painted at a different time of day). There is a strong focus on the moment of the blast, with a flurry of opaque white pigment at the centre of the composition, capturing the energy of the explosion as it detonates from the rock face.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 4 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 9 publications

Other works by Arthur Streeton

See all 52 works