John Peter Russell was of the same generation of Australian artists as Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton, but he lived and worked in Europe for 40 years, from 1876 to 1921, having direct contact with some of the significant artists of his time. He became friends with fellow student van Gogh and was influenced by his theories of colour, in particular his view that true painters do not render local colour, but use complementary colours in combination, such as blue and orange, yellow and violet. In 1886 Russell visited Belle Ile, a small island in the Bay of Biscay off the coast of Brittany, where he encountered Monet; the two artists painted together during that summer. Under Monet’s influence, Russell began to paint more freely with a visual rhythm and using a heightened palette.
Both In the morning, Alpes Maritimes from Antibes and Landscape, Antibes are of the same scene in the south of France. In both, Russell captured the rippling, sparkling surface of the intense blue-green sea, the sun on the dappled golden-green grass and the mellow pulse of the distant mauve-blue mountains. He immersed himself in nature. In Landscape, Antibes ,he moved towards the edge of the cliff in order to portray more of the water and the boats sailing on it and less of the foreground foliage.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002