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Australia's Impressionists: In focus

Discover how four of Australia's most significant artists – Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder, and John Russell – engaged with and contributed to the broader, international movement that was Impressionism.

World Impressionism

Impressionism was an international phenomenon. During the 19th century artists around the world, from Europe, to North America and Australia, stepped outside the studio to paint directly in front of their subject: natural or urban.

The work of French artists such as Monet is only the best known form of Impressionism today; in the 19th century the term ‘Impressionist’ encompassed numerous styles. There were many local interpretations, all deriving from the practice of painting en plein air (in the open air) – and Australia was no exception. Painting out of doors was linked to ideas of national identity in many countries; in Australia it went hand-in-hand with a sense among the non-Indigenous population of a nation coming of age. The swift, open brushwork that 'plein-air' painting required lent itself well to capturing the energy of Australia’s modern, cosmopolitan cities, and embracing the unique qualities of the awe-inspiring landscapes beyond.