Painting in others’ footsteps
I am in the final stages of a landscape painting which will be called A Quiet Day in Northcote. Perhaps Arthur Boyd was right when he said …all Australian paintings are in some way a homage to Tom Roberts … as Roberts’ own work A QUIET DAY ON DAREBIN CREEK, has been much in my mind as I worked on this picture. Darebin creek is a stone’s throw from where I am working on the Merri Creek. I was fortunate enough to see the Roberts’ picture last week at the National Gallery of Australia in the TOM ROBERTS’ EXHIBITION. The clarity of the light in this picture is striking: a cool overcast sky like a southern hemisphere version of BASTIEN LEPAGE. This is one of his very directly painted works. As was clear in the exhibition, his methods varied greatly. Studio pictures were structured on studies, and worked up in layers, sometimes with a coloured ground, unifying underpainting and modifying glazes. In other works like A Quiet Day on Darebin Creek he painted very directly – the paint is mixed to the right colour and tone and applied in opaque meaty brushstrokes. I have to say, I preferred works made by the latter method, but perhaps this taste is merely of my own time. Although I admire COMING SOUTH, I respond to Roberts’ sure sense of atmosphere through colour in HOLIDAY SKETCH AT COOGEE and SLUMBERING SEA, MENTONE. But what a versatile painter he was, as is so clearly seen when you have the luxury of a whole exhibition of one artist’s work. Although he developed new methods of working with his contemporaries in the Heidelberg school, he discarded nothing. In BAILED UP and THE BREAKAWAY he coerces any and all technique to the necessity of the image. These and many of his other best works reek of colour.