Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Elioth Gruner: The Texture of Light

Elioth Gruner: The Texture of Light
Canberra Museum and Art Gallery, 8 March - 22 June, 2014

Another new Australian painter to me (and probably my mother, whom I know learns about antipodean art through this blog) is Elioth Gruner (1882-1939). He was born in New Zealand but immigrated to Australia as a young child and lived in Sydney for most of his life. Many of his earlier paintings are of beach scenes, full of people, waves and movement.
Bondi Beach (1912)
He was influenced by Impressionism, and through the development of his art, blobs of paint and evident brushstrokes give way to a flatter, broader canvas. I like his groupings of individuals, many of whom can be seen turning to look at the artist with a bold and unapologetic gaze, as though questioning the viewer and making them feel like they are the intruder in this idyllic scene.


The Beach (1918)
detail from The Beach

Elioth Gruner is most known for his texture of light at all times, and in all climates and seasons. His poplars, picnickers and bathers are set against a very Australian environment. It may not contain the reds of the central desert, but the modest, rolling hills provide a modernist take on quintessential aspects of the Australian landscape.

In the Orchard (1920)
In the Orchard, detail
Travelling trough New South Wales and the Canberra region, Gruner painted en plain air, and made his reputation with the Emu Plains series, which he exhibited in the Society of Artists' Annual Exhibition. The magnum opus of this series is Spring Frost, which is part of the Art Gallery of New South Wales collection, and regularly wins audience votes as the favourite painting in the gallery.

Spring Frost (1919)
detail from Spring Frost
Summer Morning (1916)

Gruner 'discovered' the Canberra region in the early 1920s and loved the quality of the light. He was drawn to the quiet grandeur of dry plains and bare hills ringed with ancient mountain ranges. The crisp dry air of the region gives it clarity of light and a sense of distance. I particularly like the paintings of the Murrumbidgee Ranges and Weetangera, because these are the hills I run over, with gold and green fading to blue and grey as sheep graze in the long grass and smoke drifts in the distance.

Murrumbidgee Ranges (1934)

Weetangera, Canberra (1937)
Self-portrait (1915)

1 comment:

CMAG said...

Great to read your insights, Kate! We've linked to your review here, in case you're interested:
Kind regards!