Important Australian + International Fine Art
27 August 2008

Arthur Streeton

(1867 - 1943)

oil on wood panel

17.5 x 68.0 cm

signed and dated lower right: A STREETON ‘07
inscribed verso: COOGEE BATHS / A STREETON

$160,000 - 200,000
Sold for $180,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 5 - 27 August 2008, Melbourne

Mr. R. Marcus Clarke, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney
Thence by descent
Private collection, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney


Streeton, A., The Arthur Streeton Catalogue, Melbourne, 1935, cat. 291, as 'Panel, Coogee Baths, 1907, Mr R. Marcus Clarke'

Catalogue text

Coogee was a favourite painting spot for the early Australian Impressionists, two celebrated works, Tom Roberts' Holiday Sketch at Coogee (Art Gallery of New South Wales) and Charles Conder's Coogee Bay (National Gallery of Victoria), having been painted there in 1888. They no doubt influenced Arthur Streeton, who claimed Coogee Bay 1890 as the first picture he painted in New South Wales. It was followed immediately by two other Coogee paintings.1 Coogee was also much admired by the writer for The Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, who described it enthusiastically. 'The whole beach is reserved for the public from point to point, and on both rocky headlands there are liberal spaces in frequent use as picnic grounds. The beach is a popular promenade and a favourite bathing place 'on holidays multitudes of the city folk enjoy the freshness of the pure salt water and Pacific breezes.'2 Streeton, in a letter to his friend Walter Withers, responded with equal or even greater admiration. 'Coogee is a very jolly place, on warm days the place (which is like a nest) is filled with smiles and sweet humanity. I'll come here to die I think, Colonel - some day.'3

Coogee appealed so much to Arthur Streeton that its scene of rocks, beach and happy visitors run like a leitmotif through his early work. Chief among these are two major paintings of 1890, 'Sunlight Sweet', Coogee, formerly in the Foster's Collection of Australian Art, and The Blue Pacific, showing Streeton's engagement with both the landscape and the people in it. Enthusiasm undiminished, as seen in Coogee Baths, he visited the beach again in 1907 on his return from abroad. His attention was now drawn more to the scene, of the contrast between the still waters of the pool and the movement of the open sea as its waves crashed against the rocky edge.

Nevertheless, he did not forget the bathers, now minor figures among the rocks and their reflections. His considerable technical gifts came to the fore in the use of horizontal strokes to suggest the movement of the sea, contrasting with vertical for those of calm. This extended into the extraordinary sense of atmosphere, the shimmer and heat haze of the summer light, balanced by the brilliance of his blues.

1. Streeton, op. cit., nos. 101-103
2. The Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, 1883-89, quoted in Clark, J., and Whitelaw, B., Golden Summers: Heidelberg and Beyond, International Cultural Corporation of Australia Limited, Sydney, 1985, p. 96
3. Streeton, Undated letter to Walter Withers (the Colonel), Latrobe Collection, State Library of Victoria, quoted in Galbally, A., Arthur Streeton, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1979, pp. 25-7