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Landscapes abroad

on the beach

Ethel Carrick Fox, England/France/Australia 1872-1952 | On the beach c.1909 | Oil on canvas | Gift of the Margaret Olley Art Trust through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2011 | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

John Russell Almond trees

John Russell, Australia/France 1858-1930 | Amandiers et ruines, Sicile (Almond trees and ruins, Sicily) 1887 | Oil on canvas | Purchased 1989 from the estate of Lady Trout with a special allocation from the Queensland Government | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Currently on display | Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Galleries | Queensland Art Gallery (QAG)

Landscapes were an important subject for Australian artists throughout the nineteenth century. Prior to Federation in 1901, many painters were inspired by nationalist sentiment and painted en plein air in an attempt to capture the unique qualities of the Australian landscape. 

When travelling overseas, Australian artists continued to paint landscapes, and firsthand contact with French Impressionism enriched the work of many. E Phillips Fox, for instance, returned to Australia in 1893 to set up – with his friend Tudor St George Tucker – an art school in Melbourne, which was informed by extensive travel and based loosely on impressionist principles. Fox returned to Europe in 1902, married artist Ethel Carrick in 1905 and, until 1913, made Paris home. Seeking stimulus in new settings, the couple embarked on many painting trips throughout France, Italy, Spain and North Africa. The shifting patterns of holidaymakers provided the focus for many of Ethel Carrick’s beach scenes, with beach crowds the subject of numerous paintings. Charles Conder also sought inspiration in the landscape during a period of convalescence in Algiers in 1892.

Of all these artists, John Russell had the closest contact with important European practitioners, including Vincent Van Gogh, Auguste Rodin, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet, as he spent most of his active artistic life in Europe. The works he painted in Sicily in the spring of 1887 inspired Van Gogh to paint similar scenes in the south of France. The following year, Russell established a home on Belle-Île, an island off the coast of Brittany, where he painted some of Monet’s favourite subjects.

Collection Highlights 

Ethel Carrick Fox On the beach c.1909

During the Belle Époque or ‘beautiful era’ in France, from the late 19th century until World War I, holidaymakers flocked to seaside resorts in their thousands. The painters Ethel Carrick and E Phillips Fox gravitated to beaches in the north, in Brittany — Dinard and St Malô — and Normandy’s Trouville and Deauville, which the French visited in significant numbers. Here, vacationers indulged in lavish hotels, luxury boutiques (Coco Chanel opened her second boutique in Deauville in 1913), horseracing and also gambling (the Trouville casino was built in 1912). The vogue for sea bathing was at its height, and extraordinary opportunities abounded for the Foxes to capture sunlit scenes of the good life amongst the leisured middle classes.

Carrick and Fox’s sketches at beachside resorts demonstrate many similarities in execution and subtle differences in subject choices. The artists were professional observers, capturing the typical sunlit scenes of the good life amongst the middle classes as Monet and Renoir had depicted in the 1870s. Ethel Carrick Fox’s sketches demonstrate her delight in capturing the movement and visual effects of beach crowds. 

John Russell Amandiers et ruines, Sicile (Almond trees and ruins, Sicily) 1887

John Russell was born in Sydney and, at age 18, went to England to study engineering. After the death of his father made him financially independent, he was able to pursue his interest in art and in 1885 he enrolled as a student at Cormon's atelier in Paris. There, Russell met several artists who played an important role in the development of modern art, including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Louis Anquetin, Emile Bernard and Vincent Van Gogh.

Russell spent the spring of 1887 in Sicily. The pictures he painted there inspired Van Gogh to attempt something similar in the south of France. Van Gogh wrote to Russell from Arles:

. . . as for me I remain enraptured with the scenery here. I am working on a series of blooming orchards and involuntarily I thought often of you as you did the same in Sicily. 

Of Interest 

The Queensland Art Gallery houses a significant collection of Australian paintings, sculptures, decorative art objects, and works on paper. Find more information on these selected Collection highlights | Indigenous Australian Art | Queensland Heritage | Australian Art to 1975 

Search the Queensland Art Gallery's Collection online for works by E Phillips Fox, Ethel Carrick Fox, Charles Conder, Rupert Bunny, Arthur Streeton and Rayner Hoff | Collection Search