Sydney Long1871 - 1955 Seaside cottage 1920
- oil on canvas
The sea itself is largely omitted from this scene of an unnamed, but recognisably Australian stretch of coastal hinterland. Long is more interested in capturing a sense of the blustery conditions and bright exposure of the coast and leaves just a sliver of exposed canvas at the far left of the picture to indicate by the briefest of suggestion, a distant stretch of water. Loose, deft brushwork and highlights of colour, dashed-in to describe the transitory effects of sunlight and wind suggest that the work is likely to have been painted en plein air at least in part, outdoors in a gentle, perhaps early evening light and from a low vantage point on an approach to the cottage. Applying the paint quickly and decisively, he has worked 'wet into wet', making compositional adjustments along the way, most clearly to the line and pitch of the roof.
Long has embraced the spontaneity of the sketch from nature, using a thinner almost chalky paint to convey the bristling texture of the low coastal trees bending in the force of prevailing winds, while giving the cottage and its dry grassy setting a more painterly treatment. In contrast to the stylised imagery of his early mythical bush paintings, it is an altogether more domesticated Australian landscape that the older artist, now approaching his 60s, depicts in Seaside Cottage. Yet certain of the enduring qualities for which he is best remembered exert a subtle influence in this late career painting - especially the decorative and harmonious arrangement of scenic elements, as well as the elegant classical proportions of the elongated landscape format. It is in these elements and the expressive handling of the wind gusting though sky, trees and grass that we see the mature artist moving instinctively through his range - seeking from this modest rustic subject a poetic response to the landscape.