Important Australian + International Fine Art
27 August 2014


(1867 - 1943)

oil on wood panel

12.5 x 61.0 cm

signed with initials and inscribed lower right: COOGEE AS

$250,000 - 350,000
Sold for $348,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 36 - 27 August 2014, Sydney

Bernard's Gallery, Melbourne
Mr E.F. Millar, Melbourne
Thence by descent
Private collection, Melbourne


Streeton's Sydney Sunlight Exhibition, Bernard's Gallery, Melbourne, 1–5 October 1907, cat. 16


Streeton, A., The Arthur Streeton Catalogue, Melbourne, 1935, cat. 308 (in possession of Mr. E.F. Millar) 

Catalogue text

In Australian art golden sunlight and Arthur Streeton are synonymous. Add to that the azure blue of skies over Sydney Harbour and the Pacific Ocean and you have gems that sparkle with all the freshness of the days when they were painted. Coogee and the Pacific Ocean, 1907 is a superb example. The vivacity of the technique expresses so engagingly the artist's immediate response to the brilliant play of light in harmony with the movement of the waters, blues transformed into frothy whites as the ocean meets the yellow sands of Coogee. From his first visit to Sydney in 1890, Coogee attracted Streeton, two of his early, 1890 masterpieces being 'Sunlight Sweet', Coogee and its companion The Blue Pacific. By that time, the newly opened Coogee Palace, featured in our painting, was also attracting Sydneysiders to its aquarium, indoor swimming baths, balcony promenade, bandstand, toboggan slides and donkey rides. The interior of its distinctive architectural dome was decorated in radiating blue and gold, with silver stars and rising sun and moon. Writing at the time to Walter Withers at Heidelberg in Melbourne, Streeton expressed his feeling for the area. 'Coogee is a very jolly place, on warm days that place (which is like a nest) is filled with smiles and sweet humanity.'1 Of the Pacific Ocean he waxed even more lyrical in a letter to Tom Roberts.

'The ocean is a big wonder, Bulldog [Tom Roberts's nickname]. What a great miracle. It's hard to comprehend it, like death and sleep. The slow, immense movement of this expanse moves one very strongly. You're made to clutch the rocks and be delighted, a dreadful heaving and soft eternity.2

In Coogee and the Pacific Ocean, 1907, the figures enjoying the waves and on the foreshore speak of Streeton's engagement with people, the perfect harmony of paint and figuration enveloped within the breezy freshness of the atmosphere. It also has a freshness of vision that is particular to the panels he painted at this time. In 1906, the year before, he returned to Melbourne after his first sojourn in Great Britain. Visiting Sydney in July through into September of 1907, he saw again those places that had so appealed to him, now enriched with the experiences gained from years abroad. It was a remarkably fruitful time, some thirty-five views full of the effervescence of the coming spring and glorious splendour of Sydney Harbour. While influenced by Impressionism and the masters of English landscape painting, Streeton's harbour scenes, captured at various times of the day, retain their striking individuality, deepened by experience and excited by seeing again those places that had inspired his youth. When these works were shown in Melbourne under the redolent title 'Streeton's Sydney Sunlight Exhibition', critics reached for superlatives, the art critic for The Age writing of his 'amazingly virile brush work and keen perception of the poetry of the landscape'.3 It was a bravura presentation.

1. Undated letter to Walter Withers, La Trobe Library, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, quoted in Galbally, A., Arthur Streeton, Landsowne Press, Melbourne, 1979, pp. 25-27
2. Letter to Tom Roberts, quoted in Croll, R. H., Tom Roberts: Father of Australian Landscape Painting, Robertson and Mullens, Melbourne, 1935, p. 9
3.'Mr. Streeton's Pictures ', Argus, Melbourne, 1 October 1907, p. 6