frederick mccubbin, the pioneer, 1904, national gallery of victoria
the heidelberg school was an australian art movement of the late 19th century. it has latterly been described as australian impressionism.
melbourne art critic sidney dickinson coined the term in an 1891 review of works by arthur streeton and walter withers, two local artists who painted en plein air in heidelberg on the city's rural outskirts. the term has since evolved to cover painters who worked together at "artists' camps" around melbourne and sydney in the 1880s and 1890s. along with streeton and withers, tom roberts, charles conder and frederick mccubbin are considered key figures of the movement. drawing on naturalist and impressionist ideas, they sought to capture australian life, the bush, and the harsh sunlight that typifies the country.
the movement emerged at a time of strong nationalist sentiment in australia, then a group of colonies on the cusp of federating. the artists' paintings, not unlike the bush poems of the bulletin school, were celebrated for being distinctly australian in character, and by the early 20th century, critics had come to identify the movement as the beginning of an australian tradition in western art. many of their most recognisable works can be seen in australia's major public galleries, including the national gallery of australia, the national gallery of victoria and the art gallery of new south wales.