The Artists

Charles Conder


James Smith of The Argus, was a National Gallery trustee and was considered at that time as Melbourne's most repected critic. Below is a segment from his review of the 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition, published in The Argus, 17th August 1889.

"Such an exhibition of impressionist memoranda as will be opened today at Buxton's Art Gallery, by Messrs. Roberts, Conder, Streeton, and others fails to justify itself. It has no adequate 'raison d`etre'. It is as if a dramatist should give a performance on the stage of such scraps of dialogue, hints of character, ideas for incidents, and suggestions of situations as had occurred to him while pondering over the construction of a play, or as if a musician should invite people to listen to crude and disconnected scraps of composition, containing the vaguely indicated theme for a cantata, a symphony, or an opera; or as if a sculptor should ask us to inspect certain masses of marble from which he has just blocked out the amorphous outlines of various pieces of statuary.

None of these is to be regarded as a work of art. Neither is a painter's 'impression'. It is simply a record in colour of some fugitive effect which he sees, or professes to see, in nature...

The modern impressionist asks you to see pictures in splashes of colour, in slap-dash brushwork, and in sleight-of-hand methods of execution leading to the proposition of pictorial conundrums, which would baffle solution if there were no label or catalogue. In an exhibition of paintings you naturally look for pictures, instead of which the impressionist presents you with a varied assortment of palettes."

- James Smith, The Argus, 17 August 1889

Left: Arthur Streeton - Above Us The Great Grave Sky, 1890
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

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