Important Australian + International Fine Art
27 August 2014


(1887 - 1971)

oil on board

63.0 x 76.0 cm

signed and dated lower right: R Wakelin '45
inscribed verso: HAYES ST / NEUTRAL BAY

$30,000 - 40,000
Sold for $36,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 36 - 27 August 2014, Sydney

Macquarie Galleries, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney
Thence by descent
Private collection, Sydney


Roland Wakelin Memorial Exhibition (1887–1971), Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 29 March – 17 April 1972, cat. 19 (label attached verso)

Catalogue text

Roland Wakelin, together with Grace Cossington Smith, Roy de Maistre and others is recognized as one of the pioneers of Post Impressionism and the modern movement in Australian art. His paintings of colour music, such as Synchromy in Orange Major, 1919 (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney), are gems of their time, Sydney providing a rich source of inspiration. Soon after he arrived from New Zealand in 1912, he began painting landscapes in the open. The Fruit Seller of Farm Cove (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra) appeared in 1915, followed by such notable works as Down the Hills to Berry's Bay, 1916 (Art Gallery of New South Wales) and Boat Sheds, 1918 (Newcastle Art Gallery, New South Wales). Years later, like many of his contemporaries, he was fascinated by the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as each side of the great span edged towards the other, recalled in The Bridge Under Construction, c1928-29 (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne). The historical interest of this work, in addition to its considerable aesthetic appeal, is shared with many other works, especially Hayes Street, Neutral Bay, 1945.

Sydney once had one of the largest tram networks in the world, its usage peaking in 1945, when a record 405 million passenger journeys were made.1 The fact that the year of this happening and the painting Hayes Street, Neutral Bay are the same is no coincidence, for Wakelin painted in this same year another work featuring a tram, Lands Department, Macquarie Place, Sydney (private collection). The historical plot thickens. Hayes Street in Sydney's Neutral Bay runs down to the ferry wharf, the street having been named after the entrepreneur Patrick Hayes whose businesses included the Neutral Bay Ferry Company and the Oaks Steam Brick Company. When electrified in 1909, the Neutral Bay tram network had its depot on his old brickworks site.2

Steep grades obliged trams to be fitted with special brakes. The track down Hayes Street, however, was the steepest without such assistance, captured by Wakelin by the precarious placement of the tram on the very edge. To all this history, Wakelin added his love of colour and the oft employed drama of the skies in which clouds were the principal players. Referring to these 'softly lit' scenes, Leslie Walton, wrote, 'In these landscapes there is an absence of the traditional preoccupation with the effects of the hot sun, the electric blue skies, the brittle torrid climate so frequently felt and represented in Australian painting. They have a rich, luminous effect more akin to the subdued tonality of Constable.'3 In Hayes Street, Neutral Bay, subject and beauty are blended in luminosity.

1.'Trams in Sydney', Wikipedia Encyclopedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/trams_in_sydney>, viewed 11 July 2014
2. Hoskins, I., and Masson, L., 'Neutral Bay', Dictionary of Sydney, 2008, <http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/neutral_bay>, viewed 11 July 2014
3. Walton, L., The Art of Roland Wakelin, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1987, p. 28