DETAIL : Roy DE MAISTRE 1894�1968 'Forest landscape' [Gum trees] c1920  oil on cardboard NGA 1971.44
Arthur STREETON | The selector's hut (Whelan on the log)

Australia 1867 – Australia 1943
England 1898-1906, 1907-24
The selector's hut (Whelan on the log)
[The selector's hut]
oil on canvas
76.7 (h) x 51.2 (w) cm
Framed 93.0 (h) x 69.3 (w) x 8.0 (d) cm
signed and dated l.r., oil "Streeton. 1890."
NGA 1961.15
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The selector’s hut (Whelan on the log) is an iconic image of the ‘pioneering spirit’ that underpinned Australian nationalist attitudes of the late nineteenth century. Although most Australians lived in coastal cities and towns, it was the bush that was used as a symbol of Australian sentiment. In The selector’s hut (Whelan on the log) Arthur Streeton depicted these iconic elements of the land. The ‘blue and gold’ of sky and earth are encapsulated by the great scale of the sky, the golden grass and shimmering light, a slender silhouetted gum tree and a bush pioneer.

By 1888 a railway had been constructed between Melbourne and the suburban fringe at Heidelberg. Towards the end of that year Streeton had set up ‘camp’ in an old house on Eaglemont estate, which was located close to Heidelberg at Mount Eagle. Mr C. M. Davies, part owner of the estate, had offered the house to the artist.1 Early in 1889 Streeton was joined by Charles Conder and Tom Roberts. The camp provided the perfect working environment–a reasonably isolated bush location that was still close to the city. Streeton found much inspiration in the area, nicknaming Eaglemont ‘our hill of gold’.

Jack Whelan was the caretaker and farmer of the Eaglemont estate and shared the house with the artists over the summer of 1888–89. In The selector’s hut (Whelan on the log) Streeton has presented Whelan as a bush selector–a type of pioneering ‘hero’ who farmed the large properties of landowners.

1 Terence Lane, ‘Painting on the hill of gold: Heidelberg 1888–90’, in Terence Lane (ed.), Australian impressionism, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2007, p. 123.