Important Australian + International Fine Art
16 April 2008

Rupert Bunny

(1864 - 1947)

oil on canvas

43.5 x 58.5 cm

signed lower right with artist's monogram

$30,000 - 40,000
Sold for $36,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 4 - 16 April 2008, Melbourne

Mr & Mrs Robert Campbell, Adelaide
Thence by descent, Jean Campbell, Canberra


Exhibition of Paintings by Rupert Bunny, Athenaeum Art Gallery, Melbourne, 4 – 15 July 1933, included thirty paintings of 'Familiar Scenes in the Botanical Gardens'
Georges, 22 March 1949, cat. 22 (label attached verso)
National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (label attached verso)


Turnbull, C. and Buesst, T., The Art of Rupert Bunny, Ure Smith, Sydney, 1948, p. 74
Thomas, D., Rupert Bunny 1864 – 1947, Lansdowne Press Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1970, cat. O429

Catalogue text

In October 1932 Rupert Bunny returned to Melbourne to find a home where he and his wife Jeanne-Heloise could settle. He exhibited with the Victorian Artists' Society and Twenty Melbourne Painters and turned to painting landscapes within easy reach of where he was living in South Yarra - the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens, Albert Park and Toorak. The most numerous were the Gardens, which would have recalled for him those civilised moments of elegantly costumed Parisians in the Luxembourg Gardens where he had painted in the spring of 1909. The Botanic Gardens paintings of the spring and summer of 1932 into 1933 were based on a number of pencil sketches and studies in oil painted out-of-doors, directly from the motif. In the Gardens provides a typical example of the oil sketch. The group unpacking a picnic basket is painted with a vivacity that captures the artist's spontaneous response to the moment. Back in his studio, Bunny painted larger, more finished versions from the sketches in oil, The Lily Pond continuing the picnic theme. Again, the lively handling of paint gives the work a freshness, as the mother and her two children prepare to enjoy the pleasures offered by the peaceful seclusion. It is a characteristic Bunny painting of the time, featuring favourite colours of pale blue and touches of pink in the flowers of the lilies.

When exhibited at Melbourne's Athenaeum Art Gallery in July 1933, Bunny had already left for France to settle his affairs there, following the unexpected death of his wife. This, no doubt, explains why most were given the general title 'Familiar Scenes in the Botanical Gardens', although individual subjects were later identified, as in this painting. The exhibition, which sold well, was reviewed by a galaxy of Australian talent - Arthur Streeton, George Bell, and Blamire Young - who were then writing as Melbourne art critics for The Argus, The Sun and The Herald respectively. Streeton singled out for praise a number of Bunny's earlier works on exhibition and referred to 'the many canvases of cabinet size of scenes in the Botanic Gardens.'  Bell noted that 'In these pictures the artist shows what a wealth of material is so close at hand for the artist who has the ability to see it in terms of paint', adding 'The effect of this group is lyrical and charming.'2 Robert Campbell, who once owned these paintings, was a close friend of Bunny's and had painted with him in the south of France in the late twenties.

1. Argus, Melbourne, 4 July 1933, p. 9
2. Sun, Melbourne, 4 July 1933, p. 18