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Golden Summers Exhibition - April 2017

Golden Summers Exhibition

This is a proposal to hold an exhibition at the Kapunda Community Gallery in April 2017 entitled Golden Summers - Celebrating the Landscape. It will be an exhibition in the spirit of Australian Impressionism, a movement which arose as a direct response by Australian artists to the emerging art trends of Europe in the late nineteenth century, particularly the Impressionist Movement.

Australian Impressionism, the Heidelberg School, the 9 by 5 Exhibition and 'Golden Summers' are terms we associate with a particular group of Australian artists, including Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Charles Conder, Frederick McCubbin and Walter Withers.

The term "Heidelberg School" was coined by Melbourne art critic Sidney Dickinson in a July 1891 review of works by Arthur Streeton and Walter Withers. He noted that these and other local artists, who painted en plein air in Heidelberg on the city's outskirts, could be considered members of the "Heidelberg School". The term has since evolved to cover painters who worked together at "artists' camps" around Melbourne and Sydney in the 1880s and 1890s.

The name Golden Summers is drawn from an 1889 Streeton painting called Golden Summer, Eaglemont. Painted during a summer drought when Streeton was only twenty-one years old, it is an idyllic depiction of sunlit, undulating plains at Eaglemont near Heidelberg on Melbourne's outskirts. Naturalistic yet poetic, and a conscious effort by Streeton to create his most epic work yet, it is a prime example of the artist's distinctive, high-keyed blue and gold palette, what he considered "nature's scheme of colour in Australia". It is one of his most famous works and is considered a masterpiece of Australian Impressionism.

In a letter to fellow painter Tom Roberts, Streeton described the location, which he calls "our hill of gold":

  • I sit here in the upper circle surrounded by copper and gold, and smile with joy under my fly net as all the light, glory and quivering brightness passes slowly and freely before my eyes. Nothing happier than this. I shout and laugh at my immense wealth, all free and without responsibility. Who could steal this from me? No one.

Notably, an 1888 study for the larger finished work appeared in the 9 by 5 Exhibition under the title "Impression for 'Golden Summer' ".

In August 1889, several artists of the Heidelberg School staged the 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition at Buxton's Rooms, Swanston Street, opposite the Melbourne Town Hall. The exhibition's three principal artists were Charles Conder, Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton, with minor contributions from Frederick McCubbin, National Gallery students R. E. Falls and Herbert Daly, and sculptor Charles Douglas Richardson, who exhibited five sculpted impressions. Most of the 183 works included in the exhibition were painted on wooden cigar-box panels, measuring 9 by 5 inches (23 by 13 cm), hence the name of the exhibition. Louis Abrahams, a member of the Box Hill artists' camp, scrounged most of the panels from his family's tobacconist shop. The works were displayed in broad Red Gum frames, some left unornamented, others decorated with verse and small sketches, giving the works an "unconventional, avant garde look". The artists wrote in the catalogue:

  • An effect is only momentary: so an impressionist tries to find his place. Two half-hours are never alike, and he who tries to paint a sunset on two successive evenings, must be more or less painting from memory. So, in these works, it has been the object of the artists to render faithfully, and thus obtain first records of effects widely differing, and often of very fleeting character.
  • Exhibition Parameters

 

It is proposed, broadly speaking, to establish selection criteria for the Exhibition as follows.

  • A body of works in the tradition of the 9 by 5's. It is proposed that these be predominantly small in size, preferentially 9 x 5 inches (23cm x 13cm) unframed size, but no more than approximately 14 inches (36cm) in longest dimension unframed size. Works are to be painted in acrylic or oil on wooden or canvas boards, or in watercolour on watercolour paper, and are to be done 'en plein air' (i.e.,directly from the landscape).
  • A broader exhibition of landscapes in any artistic media. These need not be done 'en plein air'.
  • The landscapes portrayed must be those of our region, preferentially from the Light Regional Council area, but allowably the surrounding districts (e.g., Gawler, Barossa Valley, Clare & Gilbert Valley, Burra district). Works in the larger exhibition should adhere broadly to the theme. Emphasis is to be on the landscape, but elements such as people, animals, buildings, structures, machinery etc., can be included.

Depictions of the landscape in seasons other than summer are permitted.

Artists are asked to think of the aims of the Australian Impressionists in producing work of freshness and spontaneity that capture the essence of the local landscape.

Artists will be encouraged to work with others in groups to undertake 'en plein air' painting sessions at particular places, or to conduct sessions or training in 'en plein air' techniques. A particular set of locations that exemplify our area will be scouted and recommended for this purpose. The idea here is that this process will allow for coherence in the curatorial process as well as set the framework for an 'Artist's Trail' than can be driven or walked at particular times throughout the year.

The eventual aim is to extend the exhibition theme and practice in time and space by eventually linking it with a year-long program of art events, including exhibitions and cultural exchanges with other groups and venues, and exploration of the potential for cultural and historic tourism that this may provide.

Curator:  BJ MOORE

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