Golden Summer, Eaglemont

Golden Summer, Eaglemont
Arthur Streeton - Golden summer, Eaglemont - Google Art Project.jpg
ArtistArthur Streeton
Year1889
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions81.3 cm × 152.6 cm (32.01 in × 60.08 in)
LocationNational Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Golden Summer, Eaglemont is an 1889 landscape painting by Australian artist Arthur Streeton. Painted en plein air at the height of a summer drought, it is an idyllic depiction of sunlit, undulating plains that stretch from Streeton's Eaglemont "artists' camp" to the distant blue Dandenong Ranges, outside Melbourne. Naturalistic yet poetic, and a conscious effort by the 21-year-old Streeton to create his grandest work yet, it is a prime example of the artist's distinctive, high-keyed blue and gold palette, what he considered "nature's scheme of colour in Australia".

The National Gallery of Australia acquired the painting in 1995 for $3.5 million, then a record price for an Australian painting. It remains one of Streeton's most famous works and is considered a masterpiece of Australian Impressionism.

Background

Louis Buvelot's 1866 painting Summer Afternoon, Templestowe (National Gallery of Victoria) inspired Streeton to visit Eaglemont
Streeton's Impression for Golden Summer (1888, Benalla Art Gallery) formed part of the 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition of 1889
Conder's 9 by 5 work Impressionists' Camp (1889, National Gallery of Australia) shows Streeton and Roberts inside the Eaglemont homestead. Streeton's Impression for Golden Summer hangs on the wall.

Streeton painted the work en plein air in January 1889 at his Eaglemont "artists' camp", which was then located in the rural suburb of Heidelberg on Melbourne's outskirts. He passed through the area in late 1888 in search of the site depicted in one of his favourite paintings, Louis Buvelot's Summer Afternoon, Templestowe (1866). On his return journey, he met Charles Davis—brother-in-law of painter and friend David Davies—who granted him "artistic possession" of an old weatherboard homestead atop Mount Eagle. Streeton occupied the homestead over the next eighteen months with fellow plein airists Charles Conder and Tom Roberts joining him for extended periods, and less frequently other artists, notably Walter Withers.

Streeton described the location in a letter to Roberts, calling it "our hill of gold":[1]

I sit here in the upper circle surrounded by copper and gold, and smile with joy under my fly net as all the light, glory and quivering brightness passes slowly and freely before my eyes. Nothing happier than this. I shout and laugh at my immense wealth, all free and without responsibility. Who could steal this from me? No one.

Years later, Streeton recalled painting Golden Summer as he, Conder, and John Ford Paterson shared cheese and a bottle of claret.[2] John Sandes, a journalist who often visited the Eaglemont camp, wrote in 1927:[3]

[Streeton] would go off by himself with his easel and canvas and would lie on the grass for hours, wearing only shirt and trousers, and staring at the sky and at the river in the valley, and at the Dandenong Ranges. ... Then he would get up and paint with strong, sure strokes, and the thing would grow into beauty as you stole up and watched over his shoulder. That is how he painted Golden Summer while I looked over his shoulder—40 years ago.