I have so many things to show you from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, but not much time. My conscience has been nagging at me though, since I finished my last post on the gallery without including any of Tom Roberts's pictures. I have been feeling especially guilty about this because one of the ones I wanted to include is a painting I've spent years thinking was by Arthur Streeton. Most unfair.
The picture in question is this one, Holiday Sketch at Coogee:
This painting is similarly a glimpse of Sydney's lost innocence, I think. I can never decide whether it is better now - after all, you can get good coffee and don't have to bring a picnic of sandwiches that inevitably get gritty with sand - or not - the traffic, oh, the flaming traffic.
My mother was shocked when we walked down Coogee Bay Road a year or two ago. It is just one long stretch of cafes, all of them full of people. 'What do all these people do?' she wondered, 'Why are they all here? How do they earn a living?' I have no idea. Perhaps they are all rich. Perhaps they are all deeply in debt.
This painting, we are told, is 'an early testament to Roberts's plein-air impressionist technique, which evokes the sun's glare on the bright blue sea, the white sand, dry grass and spindly sea-side vegetation'. I don't know about you, but I think I understood that before I read it, although I may not have articulated it, to be fair.
the one in the shearing shed (that's the one I think particularly evokes a sense of real Australianness - after all it inspired a very fine chain of petrol stations, in the Mittagong branch of which I first encountered that other now neglected Australian classic, the T-bone steak) and the one of a highway robbery. They have been reproduced so often that I've almost become sick of them so, if you want to see them, you'll have to come to Australia and visit the NSW gallery yourself.
If you can't manage that though, I do have more pictures I want to show you, from other parts of the gallery's collection. But they will have to wait for another day as, once again, time is against me.
To be continued.