The ploughed field is an expressive response to the Aldinga and McLaren Vale region south of Adelaide where Horace Trenerry lived from 1934. Having left Adelaide during the Great Depression, Trenerry lived and worked in Willunga in relative isolation and poverty until 1951. In the early 1920s he lived briefly in Sydney where he studied at the Julian Ashton Art School. During this period he painted alongside Elioth Gruner who instilled in Trenerry a love of painting outdoors and an interest in depicting the effects of light on the Australian landscape. Returning to South Australia from Sydney in the late 1920s Trenerry developed a friendship with Hans Heysen who encouraged the younger artist to travel and visit the Flinders Ranges. Trenerry engaged with the painting styles of Gruner and Heysen, yet responded to the landscape with his own instinctive and highly sensitive approach.
In The ploughed field Trenerry used a restricted palette, tightly structured composition and dynamic painterly surface typical of his work. He defined the expanse of the field with short, layered, vertical brushstrokes (depicting the crops) over long horizontal lines. Bands of pink, orange and red suggest the rich, fertile earth of the region. The trees, sky and distant buildings are represented by dabs, dots, scrapes and square strokes of paint. Trenerry often mixed oil paint with powdered paint, a technique that created the opaque and chalky effect characteristic of his work.1
1 Lou Klepac, ‘Hans Heysen, Elioth Gruner, Horace Trenerry’, in Barry Pearce (ed.), Parallel visions: works from the Australian collection, Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2002, p. 36.