Charles Conder was one of a celebrated group of artists who painted landscapes outdoors around Sydney and Melbourne during the 1880s. Together with Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton he was a major instigator of the groundbreaking 9 by 5 impressions exhibition in Melbourne in 1889. Of this group, Conder was the only one to go on to become a legendary figure in the turn of the century art world of Paris and London.
In the 1880s, seaside leisure became a crucial part of Australian imagery. Conder visited Bronte Beach in Sydney on the Queen’s Birthday holiday on 24 May 1888. He made two paintings outdoors on that day, both of which are distinctive for their watercolour-style application of oil paint. In Bronte Beach Conder achieved a particularly pearly translucence. This may have been the result of his interest in the flat washes of colour in Japanese paintings. Certainly, the high viewpoint and horizon line, flattened perspective and carefully placed figures are reminiscent of the oriental art much admired at the time. But the hazy sky and sun-bleached expanse of sand evoke a specifically Australian sense of space.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008