John Russell1858 - 1930 South Head, Sydney 1930
- oil on canvas
The son of a prosperous engineering family, Russell found he had a natural affinity for art. He was trained in the family business, but, when his father died he inherited enough money from which to live and turned his attentions to art. While his portrait of Van Gogh is his most famous and enduring work, he is well known for his fine French seascapes.
South Head, Sydney is an excellent example of Russell's Australian work. The high key of the work embodies the Australian light and rejoices in the outdoors.
A vibrant addition to the Wesfarmers Collection, South Head, Sydney combines the sensibility of European post-Impressionism with the flourish of an Australian painterly style.
In his letters to Tom Roberts, Russell repeatedly returned to the subject of his search for colour. In 1887 he wrote, 'I have for the past two years been chasing colour, been floored again and again.' At another time he wrote: 'two years alone with (as far as art influences are concerned) nature had so changed my ideas particularly as regards colour that I could not look at my stuff... Since that time have been chasing after broken colour ... I now put the colours in as pure as I can without stirring them up on the palette, so that they are without the protective influence of the body white . .. I have been experimenting. Making my own colour with more or less success' Anna Gray, quoting John Peter Russell in her essay Pure Colour: The art of John Peter Russell, ARTONVIEW Winter 2001, p44, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra ACT