Tuesday, August 08, 2017

A Holiday at Mentone by Charles Conder

For those not on holiday, during August I'm posting paintings of those taking a break.

I'm starting with Charles Conder's painting of "A Holiday at Mentone" which is one of the best loved of all Australian Impressionist paintings. Its home is the Art Gallery of South Australia
A Holiday at Mentone by Charles Conderoil on canvas, 46.2 cm × 60.8 cm (18.2 in × 23.9 in)
Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide
I first saw this painting earlier this year at the exhibition of Impressionist Paintings by Australian painters at the National Gallery - see my blog post Australia's Impressionists at the National Gallery - review.  I can well understand why it so well liked by Australians.

Some facts about the painting

  • this was the first painting by Conder that he painted in Melbourne; 
  • the painting was found to have sand embedded in the painting suggesting that this was painted or at the very least started while at the beach
  • This painting is one of the first to capture the intensity of Australian light.  The weather is sunny and bright as are the colours; the shadows are also coloured
  • Its theme is one associated with life in Australia - it celebrates the light, leisure opportunities and the beach - and consequently is very popular with those who love the be in the sun and go to the beach. Both figures reading on the beach are reading 'The Bulletin' magazine known as 'The bushman's bible' because it celebrated outback life and culture
  • the building to the right is a bathing enclosure - used for segregated bathing
  • the use of the bridge to bisect the painting is suggested to be reminiscent of the bridge device used in paintings in Japanese art and as used by Whistler. This was also the age when Japanese art had a great influence on painting - see my earlier posts on The influence of Japanese Art and Japanese Art
  • the education page highlights the conundrum of the figures in the painting

an image that continues to intrigue generations of viewers - the curious drama in the foreground, involving three people who may or may not be aware of each other, poses several questions: Is the man lying on the sand just sleeping? Will the young woman ever notice that her umbrella has blown away? Will the self-important young man (standing at right) retrieve it and introduce himself?

Some facts about the painter:

  • Charles Conder was just 20 when he painted this painting. He was born in 1868 in Tottenham (then in Middlesex, now in the London Borough of Haringey)
  • Conder lived in Australia between 1884-90
  • he was sent to work for his uncle, a land surveyor for New South Wales, Australia at age 16 however he wanted to draw the landscape rather than survey it
  • he became a key figure in the Heidelberg School
  • in 1888, he Arthur Streeton, and shared a studio with Tom Roberts, two other key figures of Australian Impressionism
  • Conder left Australia in 1890 and moved to Paris where he studied at the Académie Julian
  • He spent the rest of his life in England, although he visited France frequently
  • he died in Virgina Water in Surrey in 1909 - he was insane

Some facts about the location

  • Mentone in the 1880s was a suburb of Melbourne - the railway had not yet reached it and consequently it was quieter than some other locations
  • it was one of the favoured sites of painters associated with Australian Impressionism

Another painting by Conder made available by the Google Art Project selection of paintings by Charles Conder is that of Bronte Beach - which is painted on cardboard.

Bronte Beach (1888) by Charles Conder
oil on cardboard, h226 cm x w330
National Gallery of Australia

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