Arthur Streeton – A master impressionist

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Earlier this month, we attended a wonderful exhibition at The National Gallery titled ‘Australia’s Impressionists’ which runs to 26th March 2017. This is a relatively small exhibition, but expertly curated and features work by four Australian artists – Tom Roberts, Charles Conder, John Russell and Arthur Streeton. Between them, these four created a new artistic movement in Australia based on what they had seen in France and produced a huge combined body of work that represents the very best of impressionist painting from the prodigious talents that Roberts, Conder and Russell are, it was the work of Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) that captured our attention.

This from The National Gallery’s web page summarises his life.

“Streeton’s artistic training began aged 15, with night classes in design at Melbourne’s National Gallery School, while he worked as an office clerk and, later, as an apprentice lithographer. He read amateur art manuals imported from Europe and America that encouraged painting en plein air.

 While painting at Mentone Beach, south of Melbourne, Streeton met Tom Roberts (1856–1931), who invited him to join artists’ camps that he had helped found in the bush near Box Hill, to the west of the city. Together with Roberts and Charles Conder (1868–1909), Streeton helped stage the ‘9 by 5 Impression Exhibition‘ in Melbourne in 1889, which served as something of a manifesto for this new generation of Australian painters who were embracing the looser, more open techniques of Impressionism.

Streeton moved to Sydney in 1890, after the Art Gallery of New South Wales purchased a large canvas of his, ‘Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide’ (1890). He was the first Australian-born artist to have a work exhibited at London’s Royal Academy – ‘Golden Summer, Eaglemont’ (1889) – but when he moved to London in 1897 he struggled to gain recognition. Nonetheless, he stayed in England for around thirty years, sending work back to Australia.

During the First World War, Streeton served as a hospital orderly in London, and then as an official war artist with the Australian army. He was awarded a knighthood in 1937 for services to art.”

Streeton produced a tremendous body of work during his lifetime, everyone of which merits individual study. But for now we have selected five paintings from the exhibition for specific comment and appreciation. As you study them, take in the balance in the composition, the great sense of location and climate, and the wonderful colour palettes he uses, all of which can inform ebullient design solutions today.

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‘Golden Summer, Eaglemont’ 1889. Oil on canvas.

This painting is many things, but we specifically love the colour palette Streeton uses. Vivid blues and golds which he describes as the ‘nature’s scheme of colour in Australia’. The depth of detail, the tranquil setting and the mastery of light and shade all stand out.

Artist : Ena Joyce (Australia, b.1925) Title : Date : (circa 1949) Medium Description: oil on plywood Dimensions : Credit Line : Purchased 1949 Image Credit Line : Accession Number : 832

‘Fire’s on’ Lapstone Tunnel 1891 oil on canvas.

Again that wonderful colour palette stands out. Up close, his use of a 1″ brush in 1-2″ strokes to build up the tonal range of the blue sky is masterful. The vantage point produces a high horizon allowing an exquisite interpretation of sunlight and shade, as seen in Golden Summer. You almost want to reach out and touch the rocks on the left!

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‘Ariadne’ 1895 oil on wood panel.

Blue and pink dominate the colours here. Ariadne appears to almost float on the sand. With her head lowered into her hands, her sorrow easily felt. Again the sense of sunshine and warm climate is projected so well.

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‘Blue Pacific’ 1890 oil on canvas.

This image doesn’t do justice to the tonal range and brush work that Streeton achieved. The light and dark golds used to pull out the centrepiece sandstone cliff face are superbly constructed. Again the colour palette is excellent and exuberant.

Artist : Arthur Streeton (Australia, b.1867, d.1943) Title : Date : 1893 Medium Description: oil on canvas Dimensions : Credit Line : Gift of Lady Denison 1942 Image Credit Line : Accession Number : 7209

‘The railway station, Redfern’ 1893 oil on canvas.

Finally, we bring this one into the selection because of its juxtaposition in climatic terms to the prior four. Here, grey skies, wind and rain predominate instead of warm sunshine. The composition, with all the detail clustered in the top half of the painting, and just the surface treatment and a lone be-coated person and their shadow occupying the lower half, represent such an eye for the scene. It is reported that he painted this in around three hours…

Celebrate the work of Arthur Streeton. He has many lessons to teach modern designers.

Written by Paul Smith for Bethvictoria.com

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Minimal motivational design inspiration

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These minimalist posters by Ryan McArthur are beautifully simplistic ways of getting inspirational messages from the masters of life and design into the world. The simple ‘less is more’ designs cleverly convey each message in the illustrations. Here are a selection of the posters that relate specifically to the design world. Enjoy!

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London Exhibitions to see

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Here are four current exhibitions in London that we think are worth a visit

Donna Huanca – Scar Cymbals

At Zabludowicz Collection between 29th September to 18 December

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Daily performances by painted models work to create installations within this chapel space.

“Huanca’s work draws attention to the body and in particular the skin, which is simultaneously the surface on which our personhood is inscribed and the surface through which we experience the world around us. Huanca examines conventions of behaviour in our interaction with bodies in space and the invisible histories that are accumulated through those gestures. By exposing the naked body and concealing it under layers of paint, cosmetics and latex, Huanca’s performers confront our instinctive reactions to flesh, which becomes both a familiar, decorative object and an abstract, inaccessible subject.”  – Source

Abstract Expressionism

At the RA between 24th Sept t0 2nd Jan

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Franz Kline, Vawdavitch, 1955

American art from 1950s New York featuring art by De Kooning, Rothko and Pollock. Large scale, intense and expressive this style of painting gave the method a new leash of confidence.

“It was a watershed moment in the evolution of 20th-century art, yet, remarkably, there has been no major survey of the movement since 1959.” Taken from RA website

Antony Gormley – Fit

At White Cube Gallery, Bermondsey between 30th Sept to 6th Nov

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“Gormley has configured the gallery space into 15 chambers to create a series of dramatic physiological encounters in the form of a labyrinth. Visitors are faced with a choice of passage through differently sized, uniquely lit spaces where each room challenges or qualifies the experience of the last.” – Source

Not long left on this one go see it soon!

Beyond Caravaggio

At the National Gallery between 12th Oct and 15th Jan.

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Exploring the influence of Caravaggio on painters and artists that followed him.

“After the unveiling of Caravaggio’s first public commission in 1600, artists from across Europe flocked to Rome to see his work. Seduced by the pictorial and narrative power of his paintings, many went on to imitate their naturalism and dramatic lighting effects. Paintings by Caravaggio and his followers were highly sought after in the decades following his untimely death at the age of just 39. By the mid-17th century, however, the Caravaggesque style had fallen out of favour and it would take almost three hundred years for Caravaggio’s reputation to be restored and for his artistic accomplishments to be fully recognised.” – Source

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5 London Exhibitions this summer

There are as usual a tonne of different exhibitions on this summer in London. We’ve chosen 5 that we are interested in and will let you know some more we find later!

1 -Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century

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“A major retrospective of the work of American photographer and film maker, Paul Strand (1890-1976), and the first in the UK since the artist’s death. Strand was one of the greatest and most influential photographers of the 20th century whose images have defined the way fine art and documentary photography is understood and practiced today.”

 Look out for a review on this one coming up!

19th March – 3rd July at the V&A

2 – Performing for the Camera

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A exhibition exploring the relationship between photography and performance. “What does it mean to perform for the camera?” An interesting exhibition that makes us think what does it mean to be yourself in front a camera, we are so used to cameras being constantly on us do we ever act ourselves or are we always performing?

Now – 12th June at Tate Modern

3- Conceptual Art in Britain 1964–1979

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“In the 1960s artists began to abandon traditional approaches and made ideas the essence of their work. This fascinating exhibition explores this pivotal period in British history, which changed the way we think about art to this day. It gathers together artists who took art beyond its traditional boundaries to suggest new ways of engaging with the realities of the world beyond the studio, which ultimately led to a questioning of the function and social purpose of art.”

12th April – 29th August at Tate Britain

4- Painting with Light

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Art and photography from Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age.

“Spanning 75 years across the Victorian and Edwardian ages, the exhibition opens with the experimental beginnings of photography in dialogue with painters such as J.M.W. Turner and concludes with its flowering as an independent international art form.”

11 May – 25th September at Tate Britain

5 – David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life

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This exhibition explores Hockney’s return to portraiture from his work with landscapes. The portraits are of a range of sitters from family to colleagues.

2nd July – 2nd October at the RA

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Architectural Inspiration: The Kunsthal

The Kunsthal is a museum that was designed by architect Rem Koolhaas and established in 1992. The museum in Rotterdam goes against the conventional modernist architecture that was otherwise being seen at the time of its design and making.

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The off the shelf materials used to make this building play with the idea of the industrial ready mades. The joins between materials are harsh and clash. Although the building was cheaply made and badly put together it is a architectural statement.

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The design of the building itself is also a sort of mix match. It is set on a slope with a road at one end and a woods at the other. Within the building the walkways are also a series of slopes. They lead you around the building and don’t allow you to rest, they change how you react to the building and manipulate your experience of it.

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When you enter the building (if you can find the entrance) you are brought straight into the lecture theatre. Seen above and bellow.

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This building is a montage of materials and spaces. It is a homage to modern architecture.

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Mise-en-abyme

We visited the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum last week. Natural History has a constant great display (and gift shop) and the temporary photography exhibitions on there are always great to see. The V&A is hosting an array of work for the London Design Festival at the moment and one piece really stood out for us.

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This is Mise-en-abyme by designers Laetitia de Allegri and Matteo Fogale in collaboration with Johnson Tiles.

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This piece aims to play with your sense of perspective. The overlapping semi-transparent layers and the lines of the tiles work create a landscape that takes influence from the one-point perspective found during the Renaissance period. The title “Mise-en-abyme” meaning “placed into abyss” reflects on the feelings and experience felt whilst walking through this installation. I like the fact that you have to duck to get through some of the layers it gets you involved with the work. This piece isn’t complete until someone walks through it.

I love the way that the colours from the layers work with the light and the tiles to create different patterns and hues. Here is a little text from the exhibition “The grout lines of the tiles lining the bridge represent the perspective grid lines found on Renaissance drawings, creating an illusion of exaggerated depth that draws the viewer into the work. Each tile features a custom landscape across the bridge appear to open outward or to close inward, depending on the visitor’s point of view”

A great piece and one that I will be thinking about whilst working on research for my MA!

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Inspiration – György Kepes

György Kepes was a painter, designer, educator and art theorist.

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He is an unsung hero of design. He was born in 1906 he studied painting in Budapest, then moved to filmmaking after his graduation. In 1930 he moved to Berlin to work with Maholy-Nagy who was a key experimenter in light and moving imagery. They left Germany and ended up in Chicago where they founded an arts school. After leaving Chicago Kepes ended up in 1943 teaching at Brooklyn College and then published “The language of vision”.

Compass and Strainer Photogram n.d Gy?rgy Kepes 1906-2001 Purchased 2013 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P80553
Compass and Strainer Photogram            G Kepes 1906-2001 Purchased 2013 www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P80553

He then moved to M.I.T where he refined his art and the way he thought about art. He conducted experiments and produced exquisitely composed and technically ingenious photographs, photo collages and photograms. Kepes focused his attention on the effects of the light and the objects.

Blobs 3 c. 1939-40 G Kepes 1906-2001 Purchased 2013 www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P80545
Blobs 3 c. 1939-40
G Kepes 1906-2001 Purchased 2013 www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P80545

His work and his texts on architecture and light are inspiring:

“In 1967, Gyorgy Kepes wrote: The application of light to clarify and inform architectural spaces and complex cityscapes is not yet a discipline…. We know how to make illumination both adequate and comfortable. This has been the goal of illumination engineers who have learned all that physiology and physics can teach them concerning both natural and artificial lighting. But architects and planners realize that there are immense opportunities in lighting, and they demand more than just comfort and amplitude. “ (Light: The Shape of Space: Designing with Space & Light, Lou Michel, P.xv)

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Designer – Alvar Aalto

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Alvar Aalto was a Finnish sculptor, painter, designer and architect. At the start of his career in the 1920s his style was focused on ‘Nordic Classicism’. This changed to a more international modern style in the 1930s and continued towards a modernist style till the end of his career in the 1970s.

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Alvar Aalto stool, model E60, designed in 1933. Paimio lounge chair, beech plywood, birch, designed in 1932.

The design style of the furniture by Aalto was considered to be ‘Scandinavian Modern’. His designs were pieces that were simplistic, modern and functional.

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Aalto was concerned with making buildings that are a ‘total work of art’. He would not only design the building but the interiors, the light fixtures and the furniture. The buildings Aalto designed continued to have hints towards the Scandinavian style seen in his furniture and early work.

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“God created paper for the purpose of drawing architecture on it. Everything else is at least for me an abuse of paper.” Alvar Aalto, Sketches, 1978, P.104

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Designers – Ray and Charles Eames

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Power couple Ray and Charles Eames brought so much to the world of design. Their designs are continuously  produced and sold in high demand around the world. With Vitra, the company that produces the products, adding items that have been discontinued and mixing up the products available.

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The images in this post have been taken from the book Vitra.Eames a book first published in 1996 that looks at the designs and ideas behind the furniture. Vitra is the company responsible for working with Ray and Charles to produce the vast collection of furniture.

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The Vitra-Eames collaboration started in 1953 and continued till Charles’ death. After which the completion of the final design was carried out by working closely with Ray.  The Vitra Design Museum contains the largest collection of Eames designs and prototypes in the world.

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Ray and Charles were interested in the ability to make hard materials (such as plywood) reflect the soft curves of the human figure. They responded to physical needs, drawing inspiration from nature and organic imagery.

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Ray and Charles had a fascination with material and technology. Their designs are still in want and style.

“Their furniture is not timeless: to label it so would erase its rightful place in history. These objects are from a definite time, place, and culture (mid-century, California, modern), but they are not antiques.” (Vitra.Eames, P.17)

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As a mirror to our spine the chairs within the aluminium group have a metal skeleton that supports the leather or fabric. “The subtly modulated profiles of the die-cast aluminium spines maximise the chair’s strength and lightness, merging sculpture with engineering.” (P.31)

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“A network of welded steel strands forms a curved surface, supported by a base of tubular steel. The generous spacing of the wire results in a chair that is remarkably light- both visually and physically.” (p.106)

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Gaston Lachaise’s sculpture Floating Figure was an inspiration for this piece. Charles and Ray designed this in 1948 for a Museum of Modern Art competition, La Chaise was not manufactured by Vitra until 1991.

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Vitra still ask themselves when they are making important design decisions: What would Charles and Ray do?

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Interior Designer – Albert Hadley

“Flair is a primitive kind of style. It is innate and cannot be taught. It can be polished and refined. When a person has flair, a grounding in the principle of design, and self-discipline, that person has the potential of being an outstanding designer.” – Albert Hadley.

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   Interior designer Albert Hadley believed and put into practice that a room cannot become homely, tasteful or enjoyed until the architecture is correct and as desired.

“A good decorator not only plans and schemes, but he also knows how the job is done.” – Albert Hadley

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-Blue Room Presentation Drawing-

He would start a project by structurally sorting out a space. Moving doors to line up with windows, straightening out the room and getting a perfect canvas for his designs.

“Ceilings must always be considered. They are the most neglected surface in a room.” – Albert Hadley.

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-Drawing Room and French Chandelier-

Hadley believed that an interior should be friendly and comfortable, but it should also be ‘fused with unexpected flair.

“Design is defined by light and shade, and appropriate lightning is enormously important.” – Albert Hadley.

“Forget the floor plans. Arrange the furniture where it is the most comfortable and will look best.” – Albert Hadley.

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Spending more than 70 years as an interior designer Hadley never tired of his craft and never ran out of fresh ideas.

“A lot of people worry about the ‘wear and tear’ of furnishings. I feel its more a matter of people treating the things that surround them with respect.” – Albert Hadley.

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His sketches are beautiful even out of context. He was an interior designer, an artist and an illustrator.

“[an interior designer] must be able to clarify his intent keeping in mind that decorating is not a look, it’s a point of view.” – Albert Hadley.

“To create an interior, the designer must develop an overall concept and stick to it.” – Albert Hadley.

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His quotes aren’t too shabby either.

“The essence of interior design will always be about people and how they live. It is about the realities of what makes for an attractive, civilised, meaningful environment, not about fashion or what’s in or what’s out. This is not an easy job.” – Albert Hadley.

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-Albert Hadley’s Inspiration Board-

“Make your home as comfortable and attractive as possible and then get on with living. There’s more to life than decorating.” – Albert Hadley.

“Decorating is not about making stage sets, it’s not about making pretty pictures for the magazines; it’s really about creating a quality of life, a beauty that nourishes the soul.” – Albert Hadley.

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