Early twentieth century Australian

This small yet notable sub-collection includes predominately paintings made in Australia at the beginning of the 1900s, most significantly by artists that were known as the Heidelberg School. The Heidelberg School coined its name in the late nineteenth century, defining a movement in Australian impressionism that saw artists painting en plein air (directly on canvas, in nature) on the outskirts of Melbourne. Prominent Heidelberg School artists included Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts, Jane Sutherland, and Charles Conder.


Arthur Streeton_1908 st marks domes, venice

Image: Sir Arthur Streeton, St Mark’s Domes, Venice, 1908. Oil on canvas (Out of Copyright)


Works in the early twentieth century Australian sub-collection are predominately paintings, such as The Red Kimono (c. 1903) and Portrait of a Young Woman (n.d.) by Rupert Bunny; The Rag Mender (1906) by Bessie Davidson; St Mark’s Domes, Venice (1908) by Sir Arthur Streeton; Reported Missing (c. 1919) by George Lambert; Amongst the Saplings (1923-1932) and Landscape with Cattle (1942) by Hans Heysen; Mt Kitchener Pewsey Vale (1945) by George Whinnen; Rest (n.d.) by Norman Lindsay and an undated landscape painting by Frederick McCubbin.


Bessie Davidson_1906 the rag mender

Image: Bessie Davidson, The Rag Mender, 1906. Oil on canvas © Art Gallery of South Australia, used with permission.


The work of Bessie Davidson is an important touchstone in the BHRAG Collection, highlighting the ambition of female Australian artists at the turn of the nineteenth century who sought artistic opportunities in the cultural centres of Europe. Davidson established a new life in Paris in the early twentieth century, remaining there until her death. It was there she produced her exquisite paintings of light filled domestic spaces, landscapes and portraits of female subjects. Davidson’s The Rag Mender shows influence of her early schooling in Adelaide under acclaimed artist Margaret Preston. The work employs a sombre, blended colour palette and a narrative approach which Davidson later abandoned in favour of a post-impressionist confidence, applying paint in bold brushstrokes.


Rupert Bunny_date unknown portrait of a young woman

Image: Rupert Bunny, Portrait of a Young Woman, date unknown. Oil on canvas (Out of Copyright)


Portrait of a Young Woman, by Rupert Bunny, one of the most successful expatriate artists working in Australia at the turn of the nineteenth century, exemplifies his depictions of angelic, romanticised female figures, influenced by British pre-Raphaelite painters. Whilst the exact date of this painting is unknown, it is reminiscent of Bunny’s work produced during the 1890s before the mood of his practice shifted in response to critical and economic success. At the turn of the century, Bunny turned towards depicting modern life through a broad range of subjects, capturing the glamour and comfort of life before World War I – an era known as La Belle Époque.