Category Archives: art history

Following in a cardinal’s footsteps: Gallery visit to Ambrosiana Museum in Milan, Italy


We recently visited Milan, Italy for the weekend and of course as Milan has a long history (starting from 400 BC with Celtic tribes, through to Romans conquering in 222 BC, to being dominated by the Spanish, Austrians and the French at various times), there is lots of art and architecture to see. 

First cab off the rank was the famous Pinacoteca Brera – badly bombed in WW2 and supposedly rebuilt according to the most modern techniques of museology- but to be honest we both found it a bit of a disappointment even though it contains some very famous paintings. Mantegna’s *Lamentation of Christ’ (1480), The Marriage of the Virgin’ (1504) by Raphael and Caravaggio’s ‘Supper at Emmaus’ (1606) and lots of others.


Basically it’s large and cold and not particularly light. Many of the rooms are filled with gargantuan paintings full of baroque twistings and dark, tormented figures. And after the first 50 or so it gets a bit much.

Until we arrived at the small area containing the modern collection which had better lighting and some very enjoyable paintings by Boccioni, Braque and Morandi. I just loved Boccioni’s preliminary painting ‘La Citta Sala’ (1910) one of his first futurist paintings. So bold in colour and free in form. And then later the unique vision of  Piero Della Francesca (top of post) whose painting features the famous ostrich egg- a general symbol of creation- hanging from the ceiling. A striking painting commissioned by Federico Da Montafeltro (who’s kneeling in the pic) for the birth of his son.

But the gallery you really must see is the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana which along with the Biblioteca Ambrosiana was created by Roman Catholic Cardinal Federico Borromeo (1564–1631) to contain his collections of paintings and amazing books and manuscripts such as Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus. It has a personal touch unlike the Brera. And in contrast it is beautifully lit. The paintings are displayed like jewels and some of them were. The Botticelli was just so beautiful. The colour luminous, still perfect after 500 years.



There were Titians, Leonardo’s beautiful ‘ Portrait of a Musician’,and many other superb paintings from the 15th to 17th centuries. A small collection of Lombard sculpture which had a freshness and simplicity of emotion nicely contrasted with the paintings. What really moved me aside from the Botticelli was the Dutch painters of the 17th century. A still life by Jan Breughel, the colour luminous and rich. The detail remarkable and alive with a variety of flowers (close up below) . And the Paul Brill section in Room 7. You only mostly hear about Paul Brill in relation to Poussin. It’s not really fair. I actually like him better than Poussin probably as they are kind of fantastical landscapes more in harmony with our own apocalyptic times.


There are so many fascinating works in this gallery and it’s so beautiful to just walk around. it’s a must see if you go to Milan.


Pinacoteca di Brera

Via Brera, 28 Milan, Italy Telephone +39 02 722631

Hours: Tues – Sun 8.30 – 7.15 Closed Mondays Cost: 6/3 euros

Pinacoteca Ambrosiana

Piazzo Pio Xl, 2

Tel: +39 02 80692248

Hours: Tues – Sun 9am – 7pm Closed Mondays

Short video of Caravaggio’s Paintings.

‘Art is not a thing; it is a way.’

Elbert Hubbard


The kangaroo in Australian painting

Aboriginal Wall painting in X-Ray Style, N.Australia
Aboriginal wall painting of kangaroo in X-Ray style. Aboriginal artists in general have continued to depict the kangaroo seriously in their paintings. From time immemorial to now.

Kangaroos are popular in some places…

Since I’ve been living in Sweden, I’ve found out how many people love australian animals. I had no idea that people all over the world love them.

When I was young, growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, it seemed to me that nobody cared much about australian animals in Australia. Well I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, though here’s the appalling extinction stats here. 

I remember going on a painting trip, when I was about 19, to the outback of New South Wales. We went to a pub one night after the days painting. It was filled with a bunch of rowdy drunk roo (kangaroo) shooters. Kicking back after the days shooting. Regaling us with the days stories.  I remember being horrified by their glee about it all.

'Kangaroo' by George Stubbs
George Stubbs painting above was commissioned by the botanist and naturalist Sir Joseph Banks.
Banks brought back to England, from his australian journey with Captain Cook in 1770, kangaroo skins and skulls. Stubbs used them as a basis for the painting.

Horror stories

There are routinely, in the australian news, horror stories about someone torturing kangaroos or other animals.

On the outskirts of Melbourne or any place in Australia, where there’s open bush, you’ll often see kangaroos. Many people see them as a menace. (They often jump across the road while you’re driving at night in the country.)

When I last lived in Melbourne, some young men in the outer suburb of Bundoora, decided to use them as shooting practice using a crossbow. They were caught, luckily. Perhaps if the negative attitude wasn’t so ingrained, you wouldn’t get this kind of insanity.

I think this attitude stems from the fact that, in Australia, images of kangaroos are used on everything from coins, coats of arms, films and tv, cartoons, clothing, children’s books, Qantas, football teams etc. Mostly they’re represented as a bit of a joke. Many people take them for granted.

gary shead 'From his series 'kangaroo'
Garry Shead ‘Kangaroo’ Oil  This painting is part of a series Shead completed in 1993 which was inspired by D H Lawrence’s novel ‘Kangaroo’.

A joke?

Just doing a google search many of the images (not photography) are comical and ridiculous.

In general, I found very few established australian painters that have used australian animals in their art in a non ironic way. Clifton Pugh, Garry SheadJohn Olsen were some old school artists that depicted them. There are others, but not many.

A few contemporary artists have used them as a way to raise political issues. And this is perfectly fine, but what I’m interested in is trying to capture the actual spirit of something. Not as commentary for something else.

john olsen 'kangaroo'1978 mixed media on paper
 John Olsen ‘Kangaroo’ 1978 Mixed media on paper
Drawing of Kangaroo and Bird by Reg Mombassa
Reg Mombassa ‘Drawing of kangaroo and bird’ 2004

Having gone through the process of art school in the 80’s, there was a belief that painting any animal at all was considered unworthy of a serious artist. Except as a joke or as political statement.

But it’s no joke what happens to kangaroos in Australia.

Perhaps that’s why australians find it difficult to represent them in a serious way, because they’re in collective denial about how they are actually treated?

Of course I haven’t done a painting of a kangaroo either. Something I’ll have to fix at some stage, because they really are the most amazing, unique creatures. 

The Endeavour Journal (1768-1771) by Sir Joseph Banks 

Captain Cook’s Kangaroo comes out of hiding.

Images of the kangaroo on Red Bubble 

Australian Society for Kangaroos

Australian Society for Kangaroos facebook page

From De Bruyn to Pasteur: Early Illustrations of the Kangaroo

Chris ‘Brolga’ Barns’ kangaroo sanctuary

Center for Compassionate Conservation

‘An artist is not paid for his labour but for his vision.’

James Whistler

Postcards from the Snow

Winter’s been so long in Sweden. It seems to have been dark for about 6 months. But that means plenty of time in the studio which is what I’ve been doing. With the radio and cat to keep me company. (How great is internet radio!) I’ll show you some of the results of my labour in a few weeks.

The heavy snow recently lit up the whole landscape.

Photo of snow landscape on the way to the shops.

We managed to see a couple of deers recently while we were walking through the forest at dusk. Luckily I had my camera. Magic.

photo of a deer in the forest by Susan Wellington

Paintings by major artists with snow in them are quite a rarity in the history of painting. There’s a few classic ones like Brueghel’s ‘Winter’ (1565)

The Hunters in the Snow (Winter) 1565 - Brueghel

and Courbet’s stag paintings, this one below from 1867. (Courbet painted more than thirty hunt pictures from 1850 through 1873. He loved hunting.)

And the Impressionists such as Monet and Utrillo painted quite a few too. Much less bleak than Casper David Friedrich’s bleak “Cloister Cemetery in the Snow” (Destroyed in 1945 in Berlin.)


Caspar David Friedrich 'Cloister Cemetery in the Snow'

However even in these paintings the snow isn’t really the main theme. These are rather genre paintings, where situations and scenes from everyday life are depicted rather than landscapes. Though sometimes these categories can be pretty blurry.

Is Monet’s ‘Train in the Snow’, above, really a genre painting or a landscape? I’d say landscape as the figures are insignificant. But it’s still debatable. You could make an argument for it as a type of genre painting with trains as the main subject. Though I think it’s really the winter atmosphere that wins the argument.

And the same with the Courbet. One of the features of genre painting is that the scene should be painted in a non-idealized, non dramatic way. Like real life. (Who decided this I’d like to know. Since when is real life not dramatic?) Though Courbet paints the death of the stag like it was a character in a classical history painting. So is it really genre?

Basically the snowy landscape wasn’t a particularly popular subject for artists to paint whether genre or landscape. The art patrons from the northern hemisphere didn’t much like to be reminded of the cold probably. But it is beautiful I think. Especially when you can go back to your centrally heated home. Here’s one of my contributions.

Oil painting of winter snow landscape

20 Imaginative and Strange Ice Sculptures. 

Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ from ‘The Four Seasons’.

‘I think that it can be said of a lot of artists, and myself included, that we made the same record over and over from the beginning.’
Boz Scaggs

Being Provincial

Recently when we were in Estonia I sold a couple of landscape paintings and received some commissions (2 flower paintings and a cat painting). It’s always really pleasing when someone likes your work. What a place! I sent the painting to Estonia this week (thankyou to the capable hands of Mari) and it’s now safely in the owner’s hands. I hope she has many happy years with it.

I also discovered a new artist, Lola Liivat (1928-) while I was there, as I met her cousin. She’s one of Estonia’s first (and very few) abstract expressionist artists and she kindly lent me a lavishly illustrated catalogue of  her work also containing some very interesting essays translated into English.

The Estonians write in a particularly poetic style which is quite abstract and sometimes difficult to comprehend. The essay was about abstraction in Estonian art and introduced some interesting ideas. The history of modern art is always told like it’s a competition between countries. And France, Russia, Germany and US are the winners as that’s where the major art movements of the 20th modernism originated. Everybody else is provincial. But in this essay by Kaire Nurk she makes the interesting point about abstraction being a style that was taken up as an response to the need for freedom in terms of the historical context of Estonian history. (Estonia was invaded and occupatied by the Soviet Union and the Nazis).

Can you really call a country provincial simply because it doesn’t follow the ‘trends’ at the same time? What do you think?

Lola Liivat Abstract Painting 2003

Take a look at this fantastic drawing instruction website – The Elements of Drawing by John Ruskin

‘Artists today think of everything they do as a work of art. It is important to forget about what you are doing… then a work of art may happen.’

Andrew Wyeth

Landscape painter Eugene Von Guerard: Nature Revealed or not?

Painting of 'Tower Hill' by Eugene-von-Guérard

Eugene Von Guerard  ‘Tower Hill’ 1855  Oil on Canvas

I caught up with a painting buddy in Melbourne recently and we went to an exhibition of Eugene Von Guerard’s (1811-1901) paintings and drawings at NGV Australia. We had a great time talking about everything except the Von Guerard paintings and probably annoyed everyone in the gallery who were so quiet and pious in their viewing. Strange. Does it have to be that quiet?

‘Nature Revealed’ is the title of the exhibition. I don’t know whether it’s quite true of his paintings for me but it’s a very comprehensive and enjoyable exhibition of his work. Originally born in Austria he came to Australia in 1852 to join in on the gold rush in Victoria like thousands of others from all over the world. Didn’t discover much gold but he did discover the landscape and decided painting commisions for rich pastoralists was more lucrative.

Most Victorians are quite familiar with his paintings from childhood as he painted much of the Victorian landscape in his 19th century German picturesque style. We had ‘Woodlands’ (1869) at home which I loved.

It’s highly detailed painting. Kind of naive. Sometimes it seems like a scene from somewhere on the Nile. I don’t think he got the Australian light right but he tried. It’s too soft by half but he did get the colour of the sea occasionally and made a great attempt at the flora and fauna. This has so much accuracy that for example the painting at the top was used as a botanical template over a century later when the government wanted to reforest the area with native flora. Good on you Von Guerard.

Take a look at ‘Nature Revealed’ if you happen to be in Melbourne and are into landscape painting. And if you can’t be there during it’s run, there’s a few permanently on display at the same gallery. Also his ‘View of Geelong’ at Geelong Art Gallery is worth taking a trip for.

Eugene Von Guerard: Nature Revealed

National Gallery of Victoria,  Federation Square, Melbourne

Dates: 16th April – 7th August 2011

In fact, I thought my calling was to be a painter.
Patti Smith

A cubist visit to Prince Waldemarsudde’s museum in Stockholm

Cubist painting by Gosta Adrian NilssonGosta Adrian-Nilsson ‘Skapelsen’ 1918  Oil on Canvas

Recently we visited the fantastic Prince Waldemarsudde’s museum on the island of Djurgården in Stockholm as it’s always a beautiful place to go even if you don’t think much of  the exhibitions. This time they were having a retrospective of the  Swedish artist Gosta Adrian-Nilsson or GAN (1884-1965). No I’d never heard of  him either. But what a revelation it was. Cubist paintings which absolutely dazzled with colour and light. They shot out of the dimly lit gallery and splintered into your mind.

GAN was a pioneer of futurism and cubism in Sweden in the 1910’s and 20’s and the exhibition featured about 125 of his paintings, drawings, collages and sketches. They’re beautifully made (paint still gleaming and fresh) compared to a painter such as Picasso and being a closeted gay man many of the paintings had a masked homo-erotic aspect. Sailors, athletes, beautiful young men all in a cubist symphony of form. I just loved the groups of sailors in their uniforms. (And I must say the uniforms in Sweden are the best I’ve seen. All the police, army, train inspectors, whoever are dressed in very stylish uniforms. They’re scary and cool at the same time. A bit like GAN’s paintings.) Though there’s whimsicalness in his paintings too that became more obvious in his illustrations and children’s book later in his life.

photo of Gosta Adrian-Nilsson or GAN

Many painters picked up cubism and abandoned it and GAN did too.  Though for the early part of the 20th century it was a style that seemed to embody for many artists a way they could express a changed sense of speed, dimension, new visual complexity and ideas in their environments. But the cubist line is definitely not a sensuous one.

I painted cubistically for a little while- to try to understand it. But it’s like painting with a straight jacket on. You simply can’t express yourself fully in that style. It’s the opposite of expressionism which is my natural home.  (Though they are both after more reality- one tries to understand reality by analysing space. The other by uncovering emotional truth. )

It’s a fantastic show and well worth seeing if you happen to be in Stockholm. The catalogue was entirely in Swedish but I bought it anyway as the pictures are good quality reproductions. Though he should have a wider audience, so it was a shame the curator didn’t produce something in English.

GAN- Modernist Pioneer and Outsider at Prince Waldemarsudde’s Museum

Djurgarden, Stockholm

Feb 19-May29 2011

Painting is just another way of keeping a diary. 

~Pablo Picasso

Art of the Landscape: Best Australian painters 2

I’m in Australia for a few weeks to see family and friends and it got me inspired to present another post on Australian painters. There’s so many great contemporary artists to write about but for this post I’ve just focused on those that have passed on to the great studio in the sky.

Grace Cossington-Smith (1892-1984)

painting of Sydney Harbour Bridge Painting of Sydney Harbour Bridge (The Bridge in Curve 1930) with inset photo of Grace.

I first became more familiar with Grace Cossington Smith’s works when I was given Janine Burke’s landmark book of Australian Women Painters (1840-1940) in 1980 as a gift by my mother. I loved Grace’s invigorating Post-Impressionism. So fresh and positive. She stood out and wasn’t afraid to and I liked her for that. Her painting ‘The Sock Knitter’ 1915 is generally regarded to be Australia’s first Post-Impressionist painting. It was important to me at that time to know about women painters, their history and work as it gave me a sense of history even if only imaginary. I knew no other artists and certainly no female ones. It made you feel less of an odd bod knowing about them. At the time virtually no artbooks had women artists in them and if it wasn’t for people like Janine Burke and Germaine Greer and a few others who bothered to do the research on them nobody but the occasional viewer who stumbled upon their work in a gallery would know about them at all.

Have a listen to this audio on a Grace Cossington Smith painting.

Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917)

painting of Girl in the Australian BushFrederick McCubbin ‘Girl in a forest (Mt Macedon)’ 1913 Oil on Canvas

Beautiful paintings in a proto impressionist style. Idyllic country scenes. Thick paint but not that thick. Nude boys bathing in Spring. Children lost in the bush. A touch of melancholy. Soft light. That is what I remember of McCubbin. The Australian bush is extremely hard to paint as it’s so unstructured compared to the European landscape or any other landscape. It’s wild and the colour of the trees is mostly very neutral. Too neutral half the time for any pictorial drama. Some say dull but in the mornings and evenings you get the pinks and purples amongst them which creates a very unique and beautiful colour field. Of course you can always create drama through contrast with the overwhelming blue of the Australian sky and then those neutrals come alive.

Russell Drysdale (1912-1981)

 painting of the The Cricketers by DrysgaleRussel Drysdale ‘The Cricketers’  1948 Oil

Russell Drysdale is a painter who was literally like wallpaper in my imagination. My parents had his painting ‘The Cricketer’ displayed on the wall (with some garish 70’s wallpaper) above the television during my teenage years and when I wasn’t watching tv I was lost in that painting. The colours and style tell a story of isolation and barrenness but with a kind of sparky energy that finds an outlet in playing games. Nothing wrong with that. But is that all there is?

More about The Cricketers 1948

Fred Williams (1927-1982)

Fred Williams Australian landscape painting‘Upwey Landscape’ 1960’s Oil on Canvas

I first noticed Fred Williams paintings on the dining room walls of my friend Cath’s house when I was a teenager. (Your teenage years are some of the best years for finding out stuff in all their poetic glory I reckon) While we were eating from our fondue thinking we were the height of sophistication I was pondering Fred Williams barren splodgy, spotty unstructured landscape print on the wall. What did it mean I wondered? Pure abstraction or not? It looked like it but being a suburban girl it wasn’t until I’d experienced the Australian landscape properly that I understood what he was getting at. He was painting just what he saw. Yes in a simplified manner but which captures the essence and nature of the landscape. When you do tune into that essence the difference between black and white Australians shrinks.

Related posts:

 Art of the Landscape: Best Australian painters 1

Everytime I paint a portrait I lose a friend.

John Singer Sargent

Check out this portrait of the Queen of England.

The Blue Rider: A visit to the Albertina museum in Vienna.

Photo of Albertina Museum, Vienna

Recently, we were in Vienna for the weekend, (hopefully to get a break from the cold in Sweden, but alas not to be – though it was sunny) and the Albertina museum, on the Inner Stadt, was one place I wanted to visit.

The German Renaissance artist, Durer (1471-1528), is just one of those artists that, if you like drawing, he’s an inspiration and the Albertina has many of his most famous prints and drawings like the one below.

Watercolour of young hare by Durer (1502)


However, I found out when we got there, that the permanent collection had gone for a tour. Annoying.

But I wasn’t annoyed for long, as one of my favourite art movements of all time, The Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter), was being exhibited there instead.

So off we went to stand in the dim, extremely opulent surrounds of the Albertina with a lot of extremely well dressed Viennese to see Kandinsky, Franz Marc, and el. And a couple of more scruffy tourists. (Do the Viennese always go to exhibitions dressed like they’re going to a ball? I don’t know. There were also quite a few women wandering about town in 3/4 fur coats and big fur hats too. Real ones. It’s not that cold there people. And they all smoke like chimneys too. I suppose some people’s idea of heaven.)

The Blue Rider

The Blue Rider school (1911-1914 and based in Munich, Germany) is one of 2 schools (the other being Die Brucke formed in Dresden, Germany) who together formed the basis of the German expressionist painting philosophy and style at the beginning of the 20th century. The main artists in Blue Rider were Kandinsky, August Macke, Franz Marc, Paul Klee, Marianne Von Werefkin, Gabriele Munter, Jawlensky all of whom are in the exhibition.

It’s a fascinating and beautiful exhibition that gave me a sense of joy and sadness at the same time. Joy as so many of the works are so delicate, bold and inventive but not for their own sakes but to express an ideal. An ideal spiritual world on earth. An ideal that was brutally cut short literally by the First World War which killed both August Macke and Franz Marc. The American abstract expressionists continued some of their ideas, ie. the idea of liberation, but I find their art works completely inward looking compared to the Blue Rider school. The Blue Rider was just one small moment in time.

It was Kandinsky’s watercolours and paintings that really captured my heart in the exhibition. They were dazzling little jewels of colour. And they really do have a spiritual quality in them as they hit you in the heart with their purity. I’d never liked Kandinsky’s paintings much. I thought they were pretty ugly to be honest. To me the ideas that he put in his book  ‘Concerning the Spiritual in Art’ (1910) about the artist’s duty to touch the soul, didn’t really translate into his paintings. Or so I thought as I’d never seen any in real life. But they really do.

Oil Painting of Munich landscape with the church of St Ursula by KandinskyKandinsky ‘Munich Landscape with St Ursula’s Church’ Oil 1908

Franz Marc was my other favourite Blue Rider painter in the exhibition whose slightly cubistic little drawings and watercolours of horses and other animals in the exhibition brought out their cosmic quality. The Nazi’s condemned Marc as a degenerate artist in 1936/37 and demanded that his works be taken from exhibit in German museums.

Painting of horse in a landscape by Franz MarcFranz Marc ‘Horse in a Landscape’  1910

But the paintings live on bringing their joy with them.


The Blue Rider. From the Lenbachhaus and Albertina

Feb. 4 – May 29, 2011
Daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Wed. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.


Albertinaplatz 1
1010 Vienna

Have a look at this fantastic contemporary watercolour artist.

‘One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.’

Leonardo da Vinci


Northern Landscape: A visit to the Moderna Museet in Stockholm

Recently we went for a visit to the Moderna Museet, the modern art gallery in Stockholm. I primarily wanted to go to see Matisse’s landscape painting ‘Paysage marocain’ (Acanthes), 1912. One of his Morocco paintings. It’s a gorgeous painting because of the colour and simplicity (the picture doesn’t do it justice).

Matisse's Morrocan LandscapeMatisse ‘Paysage marocain’ (Acanthes), 1912

But the Emil Nolde (1867 -1956) flower painting in the same room moved me more. Incredibly intense colour. Van Goghish application of the paint. Very thick. I’d seen it in books and didn’t think much (and the photo doesn’t do it justice either)  but it is actually really sensitive in real life and really captures the spirit of the flowers. It was the only painting that moved me on a heart level in the whole gallery.

It was also stolen by the Nazis. Read the story here.

Orange and red flower painting by Emil Nolde Emil Nolde ‘Flowers’

Wandering around you have various thoughts.

There’s hardly any art in the whole gallery.

It’d be a good place to make a film about alienation and the soulessness of modern architecture.

A lot of the art post 1910 is dark and depressing. There isn’t an ounce of anything of spiritual value in it. It’s understandable in the context of the world wars but so what? As social documents yeh but artistic no. Much intellectual mumbo jumbo has been written to justify it. I can really understand why people don’t like it.

The way the 20th history of art is written is ludicrous. It’s all about the avant-garde and leaves out many brilliant artists. As if all art is simply progressing towards some new formal nirvana which will explain everything about the world.  This history keeps being taught in secondary schools and university and art schools as if it is the only one worth knowing about. And everything else is irrelevant. Not.

Here’s a new artist I discovered at the Museum in a book. Ellen Thesleff (1869-1954). She’s Finnish. Never heard of her.  I just thought they were beautiful vibrant spiritual landscapes.  She deserves a much wider audience. Again she’s influenced by Van Gogh. Yes he was the innovator but that’s not the only story in art. I couldn’t find many of her images on the web. Some of her paintings I saw in the book had really interesting colour combinations.  Not so obvious in these paintings but they do have a particular light that is more Northern european which is interesting to me.

Thesleff,-Ellen_Juhannus Finnish Landscape painting in blue and yellowEllen Thesleff   ‘Landscape’  c?

Ellen Thesleff   ‘Landscape’  1910

Take a look at this interesting contemporary English artist:

Art of the landscape: Best Australian painters 1

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-

australian landscape painting of rocky hill
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

Australian landscape painting of hill reflected in still water

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

Australian landscape painting of mine explosion during hot summer day

A few people regard him as Australia’s greatest painter. He is technically fantastic.

Clarice Beckett 1887-1935

Misty Australian landscape painting of Yarra river at sunset

Lived a quiet suburban life dedicated to painting. Gorgeous little tonal paintings.

Aboriginal rock painting of Arnhem Land called X ray painting

Aboriginal Wall painting in X-Ray Style, N.Australia

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’

Australian painting of Ned Kelly on horse in desert.
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

Australian landscape painting of hill with bird and nest


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.

Related posts:

Art of the landscape: Best Australian painters 2

Colour is my day-long obsession,  joy and torment.

Claude Monet