Important Australian + International Fine Art
28 August 2013


(1867 - 1943)

oil on canvas

63.5 x 76.0 cm

signed lower right: ARTHUR STREETON
framer's label attached verso: John Thallon, Melbourne

Private sale

Private collection
Sotheby's, Melbourne, 21 April 1986, lot 78 (as 'Port Campbell Cliffs')
The Rogowski Collection, Melbourne
Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 23 February 1998, lot 34 (as 'Port Campbell Cliffs')
Estate of a private collection, Melbourne


Exhibition of Paintings by Arthur Streeton, Fine Arts Gallery, Melbourne, 31 March – 14 April 1932, cat. 19 (as 'Cliff and Ocean Blue')


Streeton, A., The Arthur Streeton Catalogue, self published, Melbourne, 1935, cat. 1044 (as 'Cliff and Blue Ocean')

Catalogue text

Arthur Streeton had a penchant for visiting places of popular attraction, outstanding tourist sites such as Mount Buffalo, the Grampians, and Port Campbell. The latter, a coastal town on Victoria's Great Ocean Road, is near the Twelve Apostles and the Port Campbell National Park. Working at the scenic spots near Port Campbell in early 1932, Streeton produced a number of vibrant paintings described as'glowing canvases' when shown in his March exhibition at Melbourne's Fine Arts Gallery.1 The major works included Ramparts Face the Ocean, Romance in Blue and Gold, and our painting, Cliff and Ocean Blue, one of the largest of the group.'The recent work', wrote the Argus critic, 'has remarkable freshness, combined with its strength and distinction'.2 He noted that, 'A visit to Port Campbell and thereabouts has been rich in results'. When adding, 'Cliffs and gently breaking blue sea appear in several of the works', he singled out our painting for special mention 'One of the most impressive is 'Cliff and Ocean Blue', a fascinating suggestion of mobile light and colour in association with the solidity and colour of the cliff'.

The panoramic majesty of the scene, expanse of blue waters and sheer drop of the rock face dominates, the human presence barely seen at the cliff top. But it is strongly felt in the artist's passionate response. Into this moment of awe Streeton wove a sense of joy in the poetic appeal of nature at her grandest, reflected in the title he gave this and other related paintings, as in Romance in Blue and Gold. In another, Dizzy Near the Edge, Streeton continued the narrative of his visit and the fascination experienced when the mighty movements of the ocean met the bulwark of the land. He had a deep interest in the subject, seen early in the 1890s Sydney paintings 'Sunlight Sweet', Coogee and The Blue Pacific. Writing at the time to Tom Roberts, Streeton said, 'The ocean is a big wonder, Bulldog [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.'3 It continued to move Streeton through his many brilliant sunburst paintings of Sydney Harbour, and echoed again and again in others of the rugged Victorian coastline pounded by the Southern Ocean. Cliff and Ocean Blue is a classic Streeton painting rejoicing in an equally classic Australian image, deep of ocean blues bathed in golden sunlight.

1. The Herald, Melbourne, 30 March 1932, p. 13
2. The Argus, Melbourne, 31 March 1932, p. 8
3. Arthur Streeton quoted in Croll, R. H., Tom Roberts: Father of Australian Landscape Painting, Robertson and Mullens, Melbourne, 1935, p. 9