Night in a garden in Spain

Charles CONDER: artist

Not On Display

About the work

Charles Conder's mother died when he was five years old and his father, who was not sympathetic to his growing son's desire to be an artist, sent him off to Australia when he was either fifteen or seventeen; accounts of the date are inconsistent. No doubt his loneliness and this early lack of family life contributed to a certain instability of temperament and the dissipation which caused his early death.

In Sydney he was first a surveyor in the Lands Department and then worked for The Illustrated Sydney News. He went to Melbourne in 1888 and studied at the National Gallery School, where Frederick McCubbin was drawing master. In the same year he joined Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts at the Eaglemont camp, where they were developing the application of impressionist techniques to the Australian landscape. Conder participated in the first '9 x 5' exhibition, held in the next year, to which he sent fortysix of these small 'cigarbox-lid' paintings.

Streeton wrote of him in a letter to Roberts: Though of the same age, he seemed thirty years my senior in knowledge of humanity and worldly affairs ... He's a fine artist ... fastidious and exacting with his gifts . ."1

In 1890 Conder left Australia, spending a limited time in England and going on to Paris to study intermittently at Julien's School and to immerse himself in the world of Bohemian artists. A friendship with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec helped to increase his dissolute habits and, while he gained much experience of painting and life, his health suffered. He went to England in 1894 and made his home there while still frequently returning to France.

Drawings on silk and a series of designs for fans were shown in his first one-man exhibition in London in 1899, which was followed by other exhibitions in London and Paris. The first in Paris was jointly with William Rothenstein, for many years a staunch friend. Conder was associated with the creators of The Yellow Book and had drawings and designs published in it, being a contemporary of Max Beerbohm and Aubrey Beardsley. Like the latter, he was immersed in romantic dreams of an earlier age which for Conder was France in the eighteenth century.

In 1901 he married Mrs Stella Maris Belford, who gave him happiness in both domestic and social life and nursed him devotedly during his many illnesses until the last three years, which he spent mainly in a sanatorium. She died three years after her husband.

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

References: 1 R.H. Croll (ed.), Smike to Bulldog Letters, Ure Smith, Sydney, 1946.
Night in a garden in Spain
Artist/Maker and role
Charles CONDER: artist
c 1895
oil on canvas
37.8 x 45.7 cm
56 x 64.0 cm [framed]
Credit line
Purchased 1966
The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession number

This is one of the paintings in our collection.