Arthur Streeton depicted scenes of city life on Sydney Harbour – such as Sirius Cove, the ferry at McMahon’s Point and the bustle of Circular Quay – yet he also created a number of allegorical images. From the late 1880s Streeton had painted symbolist landscapes using the female form to indicate a particular season, mood or state of nature.
Sydney Harbour: A souvenir was possibly painted after Streeton had left Sydney and was based in London.1 The work is a romantic and personal memento of the four years he spent on the harbour at Curlew Camp near Mosman. Framed by the bush setting a group of spirits dance in the landscape. Against the sandstone rocks their transparent forms seem weightless. At the centre of the composition is the magnetic blue of Sydney Harbour, the water glimpsed through rich vegetation. A passing ship is a reminder of everyday reality and the presence of the city.
1 Mary Eagle, The oil paintings of Arthur Streeton in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 1994, pp. 129–31.