Australia has a rich history of painting the landscape. In the western tradition going back to the First Fleet in 1788 and in aboriginal art way beyond that. Here’s just a sample of my favourite ones. Those who influenced me, those who taught me and those whom I aspire to be like.
Jeff Makin 1943-
Jeff Makin was a lecturer when I was at art school and his passion and commitment to painting I’ve always admired. I love many of his paintings too. The light in Australia is bright thus his bright paintings. Some people call this garish, I don’t. Many plein air painters paint the mornings and afternoon light so they can get a softness in tone and colour but in my opinion it doesn’t give a really accurate picture of the light in Australia. It just looks nice.
Arthur Boyd 1920-1999
The Boyd family are a famous creative family in Australia for 6 generations. Arthur Boyd used mythological figures in the Australian landscape and, as I was very interested in mythology early on, it gave me a way of imagining those stories in my own paintings. Of course he was really influenced by the Renaissance painters and just transformed their ideas into the Australian landscape instead of Italian. He had that role for me.
Arthur Streeton 1867-1943
A few people regard him as Australia’s greatest painter. He is technically fantastic.
Clarice Beckett 1887-1935
Lived a quiet suburban life dedicated to painting. Gorgeous little tonal paintings.
Aboriginal rock painting of Arnhem Land called X ray painting
I loved aborginal X-ray art of Northern Arnhem land when I first went to art school. It is a 4000 year old technique in which the inner parts of animals and humans are painted within the silhouette of the figure which is often lined with white pigment. Not really a landscape however the style influenced my early landscape paintings and gave me a way to visualise pain.
Sidney Nolan 1917-1992 ‘Ned Kelly’
Sidney Nolan painted two series on the 19th century bushranger Ned Kelly (the late Heath Ledger played the title role in a movie about him). The first series done in the 1940’s is best. Australia’s history painter.
Brett Whiteley 1939-1992
Brett Whiteley used collage a lot in small details in his landscapes. You get a surprise when you get close to them. He was quite a playful painter always searching for the emotional equivalent of the landscape’s effect on him. Sometimes graceful and other times violent with gorgeous blues in many of his paintings. His blues really influenced me.
You might find these books on Australian art interesting.
Australian Pastoral: The Making of a White Landscape by Jeanette Hoorn 2001 A fascinating and enjoyable book.
Art of Australia by Robert Hughes 1970 It’s old but anything written by Robert Hughes is always a stimulating read. He’s opinionated and some of his opinions about Melbourne art in the book many people disagree with.
Art of Australia 1788-2000 by Bernard Smith 1962 Updated 2001 Classic book about Australian art but I found it slightly ponderous to read.
Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.