Arthur Streeton: An Australian Artist Abroad

Following many of his peers, Arthur Streeton left his homeland of Australia, bound for London in 1897. The general consensus was that to be a great artist you must travel abroad, and so Streeton sought inspiration and international exposure from Europe and Britain.

“I feel convinced that my work will contain a larger idea & quality than before – I wish you and the Prof (McCubbin) could have a trip here – I think it’s necessary for ones work. I’ve evolving & should I return I’d never paint Australia in exactly the same way – I know more know – & would touch it more poetically” – Arthur in a letter to Tom Roberts dated 28 June 1898.

In England, he could rub shoulders with some of the art world’s elite and, most importantly, gain access to international art forums such as the Royal Academy. He had left Australia as one of the nation’s finest artists, however his optimism slowly began to dwindle in his new environment. He delved further into poverty and loneliness as he grappled with his anonymity in London.

After this challenging introduction abroad, he finally reached a turning point in 1899 when he met his future wife Nora Clench – a Canadian violinist who, like Streeton, was establishing herself in a new landscape. Nora was a breath of fresh air for Streeton and reinvigorated his artistic desires and assisted in obtaining him significant commissions. Arthur and Nora eventually settled at 10 Hill Road, St. John’s Wood, at which time Streeton became a member of the Royal British Colonial Society and the Royal Institute of Painters. His art now continued to develop, and he had adapted his technique to that of a round brush which brought a thicker and looser brush stroke.

By 1906 Arthur had the opportunity to return to Australia upon which he received the public’s praises. The trip brought continued success for Arthur with successful exhibitions, re-strengthened relationships with patrons, and of course numerous sales.  Whilst he only stayed for 12 months on this return trip, he continued to send works back to Australia over the coming years.

His search for inspiring landscapes took him to the English counties, where he often painted in the company of newly made friends or as a guest of wealthy art patrons. Venturing to the East Midlands in 1911, Arthur produced two significant landscapes of Cromford – the home of Sir Richard Arkwright. The larger of the two landscapes, Arkwright’s Valley, Derbyshire 1911, is now part of the National Gallery of Victoria’s collection. The smaller landscape Arthur produced, Valley of Sir Richard Arkwright 1911, will lead our upcoming November Fine Art auction. Having been in the same family collection for at least 80 years, this painting will once again have the opportunity to be exhibited in the public eye.

Head of Fine Art