In December 1892 Arthur Streeton moved from Melbourne to Sydney to join his friend Tom Roberts who was living at Curlew Camp at Sirius Cove near Mosman. Streeton spent the next four years based at this camp. He was captivated by the jewel-like beauty of Sydney Harbour – a public playground and private universe of endless creative possibility.
In Sirius Cove Streeton has depicted a glorious slice of the harbour. He used the vertical grain of the wood panel that he painted on, and its natural colour, to produce a study in positive and negative space, of flattened shapes and tonal contrasts that advance and recede. The image unfolds vertically like a Japanese scroll. Streeton used sweeping calligraphic-style brushstrokes – fluid and intuitive yet carefully considered and attentive to detail.
In this image a calm body of water mirrors an overcast sky. The harbour appears still and quiet yet is host to a range of human activities. A small rowing boat is shown on the water, a distant ferry advances and a path leads up the hill indicating the location of the artists’ camp.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010