Important Australian + International Fine Art
31 August 2011


(1860 - 1926)

oil on board

22.5 x 30.0 cm

signed lower left: GP Nerli

$50,000 - 70,000
Sold for $84,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 21 - 31 August 2011, Melbourne

Raffan Kelaher & Thomas P/L, Sydney, 30 March 2010, lot 107 
Company collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

Siena born and Florence trained, Girolamo Nerli delighted in painting en plein air. He arrived in Melbourne in 1885, creating urban scenes and views along the shores of Port Phillip Bay, later working in Sydney. The Impressionist influence in his work is seen in the freedom of his brushwork and informal nature of his compositions. In Italy, Nerli absorbed the influences of the Macchiaioli group of plein air painters. Their name came from the word 'macchie' or 'spots', as in their work. Nerli cleverly developed this technique resulting in the effective application of small amounts of colour or dabs. This freedom of application creates an effective harmony between technique and the fresh, atmospheric mood, giving our painting that special appeal - that engaging sense of being there.

With its breezy atmosphere and figures relaxing or strolling along its sandy beach, Beach Scene, Black Rock c.1888 is one of Nerli's most admired paintings. He made a number of versions of it, the closest to our painting being in the collection of the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane. Beach scenes were very popular with the Impressionist artists. During the eighties and nineties Australia's leading Impressionists painted numerous sunny views of the sandy beaches of Melbourne and Sydney. Some of the finest were painted by Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Walter Withers, and especially Charles Conder, as in A Holiday at Mentone 1888 in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, and Rickett's Point 1890 in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Conder met Nerli when the Italian artist moved to Sydney in 1886. His several influences on Conder can be seen in these paintings, especially their open air atmosphere and choice of motifs such as women relaxing on the beach with red umbrellas nearby. Beach Scene, Black Rock c.1888, with its long format complementing the horizontal view, was painted at the bayside beach of Sandringham. Black Rock is profiled on the horizon. Sandringham was an early mecca for artists. In our painting, Nerli cleverly used reds as bright, visual accents in a setting given to cooler colours. The breadth of handling and immediacy of the scene, shows Nerli's characteristic interest in portraying the appearance and feeling of the general atmosphere rather than precision of detail. The image of the woman and child walking along the sandy shore holding hands is one of Nerli's favoured motifs. Moreover, he took great pleasure in capturing watery reflections, as so effectively presented in the red dressed figure of the child and coastal features repeated as diffused images in the wet sands and water's edge of our painting.