The hillside

Arthur STREETON: artist

Not On Display

About the work

Born in Mount Duneed, near Geelong in Victoria, Streeton went to Melbourne with his family in 1874, and when he was fifteen began to study drawing at the National Gallery Art School. His study of painting was garnered only from books and direct association with artists and from the beginning his instinct was to paint directly outdoors.

Apprenticed to a lithographer, he painted in weekends and in 1885 joined a group - including Walter Withers and Frederick McCubbin - which went on trips to Heidelberg to paint and draw in the bush. Streeton took part in the camps started by Tom Roberts at Mentone and Box Hill (later at Eaglemont) and, when paintings done there were sold, he was able to arrange his release from apprenticeship in 1888.

Influenced by impressionist technique, he adopted its broken colour to recreate the blazing light and atmosphere of the Australian landscape. His natural selectivity in drawing, and innate ability to master depth and distance, kept tone and colour at the service of his poetical sensibility and draughtsmanship.

The first impressionist exhibition was in Melbourne in 1889, when Streeton, Roberts and Conder showed paintings done on the lids of cigar boxes in the 'Exhibition of 9 x 5 Impressions'.

Streeton moved to Sydney in the next year and lived for some time in a camp at Little Sirius Cove. A painting of Sirius Cove, nine by five inches, is in the Gallery collection.

His first one-man show, according to his letters to Roberts, was in Melbourne in December 1896, then, seeking wider experience, he set off for England and in 1898 was writing from there, after five months painting in Cairo.

He was short of money and had hard times but after a few years met with some success and exhibited at the Royal Academy and the New English Art Club. An exhibition of paintings done in Venice was well received and he was made a Member of the Royal Society of British Artists and other prestigious societies, becoming known internationally.

Visits to Australia were made for exhibitions and on the outbreak of war in 1914 he returned to England to enlist in the Royal Army Medical Corps. When he was commissioned as an official war artist in 1918, his descriptions of the landscape of France as affected by war were accurate recordings with little evidence of human suffering. Streeton had never used figures in a narrative or emotional way but only as adjuncts to the composition.

After the war he returned to Australia and except for two periods in Canada and England spent the remaining years of his life in his own country.

The paintings from the early Sydney and Melbourne years are full of vitality, fresh individual response to the land and an instinctive immediate reaction to the light and colour of Australia.

Lionel Lindsay in 1917 wrote of him as 'The discoverer, the first to look into the heart of our landscape as with the eyes of a child, and reveal its essential mystery, its truth and its beauty...'

His ambitious desire to prove himself in England and gain knowledge of artistic developments led to a degree of self-consciousness and more reliance on technique.

Landscapes painted after his final return continued the view of Australia as a place of golden light, distance and warmth and were lauded as a nationalistic concept.

In 1937 he was knighted in recognition of the special quality his talent had contributed to art in this country.

Ella Fry, Gallery Images, St George Books, Perth, 1984

Reference: Lionel Lindsay, Art in Australia 1917 No. 2, 'Arthur Streeton's Place in Australian Art,' Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
The hillside
Artist/Maker and role
Arthur STREETON: artist
oil on panel
23.3 x 27.3 cm (sight)
45.1 x 49.3 x 5.0 cm (framed)
Credit line
Purchased with funds from the Geoffrey William Robinson Bequest Fund, 1990
The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession number

This is one of the paintings in our collection.