DETAIL : Henry RIELLY 1845 � 1905 'Woodland, vale and hill' [Woodland Vale] 1874  oil on canvas NGA 1968.88
GALLERY : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | AUDIO TOUR | ALL WORKS

Australian Impressionism 1885–1900

By the time of the centenary celebrations of European settlement in Australia in 1888 we see daringly bright paintings of high noon, celebrating the intensity of Australian light. At a time when most Australians were safely established in large coastal cities, subjects of noble bush-workers and pioneers, especially the kind painted by Roberts and McCubbin, became celebrated not only in painting but also in literature. It was a growing response to Australian nationalism as settler generations of Australians from Europe began to feel very much at home and sought reassurance from art. They wanted art that understood and appreciated their own immediate landscape and history.

At the same time as the bush subjects, some of which were rather mythologised, there was delight in clear sunlight that flooded a new subject – the Australian beach. Although there had been coastal paintings in the colonial period it was not until the mid-1880s that beach leisure and sun worship became a crucial part of Australian life and art. Around the time of Australia’s centennial, the extremes of coastal beaches and inland bush were celebrated in paint and pen as part of a new national consciousness. Bush workers, and bush and beach leisure-seekers became common themes.