[My aim is] to give a sincere and truthful representation of a portion of the beauty of Nature, and to show the charm of light and shade, which I try and set forth in correct tones so as to give nearly as possible an exact illusion of reality.
Clarice Beckett 19241
Clarice Beckett’s lyrical and evocative landscapes of Melbourne remained largely unknown to Australian audiences during her lifetime. Beckett was a dedicated artist who, despite dismissive reviews and few sales, continued to paint and exhibit regularly. She first studied in Ballarat, and then from 1914 to 1916 studied with Frederick McCubbin at the National Gallery School. In 1917 she attended Max Meldrum’s public lecture on tonal painting at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre and, impressed by his theories, enrolled in his classes. While Beckett was considered a ‘Meldrumite’–a devotee of her teacher’s theories of tonal values as the best means of depicting nature–she adapted his ideas to create her own unique vision of the Australian landscape.
Beckett always painted outdoors, usually in the early morning or evening, around the bays and streets of her family home in Beaumaris, a beachside suburb of Melbourne. She sought to convey in her paintings the beauty of her local environment; be it through the afterglow of a bright sunset, the shimmering heat of a tarred road or headlights shining through misty Melbourne rain. She excelled in depicting particular effects of nature, such as haze, rain, mist and smoke. Beaumaris seascape is a meditative image of a still sea, a tree-lined cliff and distant coastline. Beckett has paid close attention to the subtle effects of light and shade reflected in the body of water. The soft lilac and pink hues of the sea, coastline and sky dissolve into bands of colour. The subject is so tonally reduced it appears to be almost abstracted.
1 Clarice Beckett, Twenty Melbourne painters, 6th annual exhibition catalogue, 1924.