Charles Conder would have sat right by the water’s edge when he painted this joyous impression of Melbourne bay-side activity. Much of the scene is dominated by water – the reflective shallows of the foreground comprising a significant portion of the composition. Behind the strip of sand and rock a band of ocean stretches to the horizon.1 In this scene Conder explores the elements of light and colour and depicts the activity of visitors to the beach. Women in long dresses search for seashells, a small group watches a sailboat travel across the bay and a child paddles in the foreground.
Working primarily in Sydney and Melbourne between 1884 and 1890, Conder suggested in much of his work the subtle moods and poetic qualities of nature. He painted with the energy and enthusiasm of a young man, delighting in the visual world around him and spurred on by the friendly rivalry of his painting companions, Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton. In Ricketts Point, Beaumaris his bold composition and free application of paint combine to form a picture that still looks fresh almost 120 years after it was completed.
1 Mary Eagle identifies this location as Ricketts Point. See Mary Eagle, The oil paintings of Charles Conder in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 1997, p. 61.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010