Important Australian + International Fine Art
22 November 2023


(1867 - 1943)

oil on canvas

75.0 x 62.5 cm

signed lower right: A. STREETON

AU$45,000 – $65,000
Sold for $55,227 (inc. BP) in Auction 76 - 22 November 2023, Sydney

Private collection, Melbourne
Christies, Sydney, 23 August 2004, lot 11
Private collection, New South Wales

Catalogue text

We are grateful to Brenda Martin Thomas, wife of the late David Thomas AM, for kindly allowing us to reproduce David's writing in this catalogue entry.
Arthur Streeton’s interest in painting flower pieces increased considerably after his return to Melbourne in 1920. Purchasing the property ‘Longacres’ at Olinda in the Dandenong Ranges and setting up a city home in Toorak, he established gardens at both. They inspired the many flower paintings that now hold a prominent part in his oeuvre. His favourite bloom was the rose, and so enamoured was he that in December 1932 he held an entire exhibition devoted to it. Shown at Melbourne’s Fine Art Society’s Gallery, it included Roses, Silver and Silk; Roses – Deep Red and Green; Roses Pale in Silver Bowl; and Roses – Pale Yellow. Two years previously both the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales had acquired paintings simply titled ‘Roses’ – the former through the Felton Bequest and the Sydney gallery from Streeton’s solo exhibition at the Macquarie Galleries. They often contained a touch of drama, as in Roses, c.1929 (Art Gallery of New South Wales). Spot-lit against a dark background, the impact of its realism is powerful, as admired by a viewer at the time:
‘… I noticed a bunch of crimson roses on the wall, so real, that at the same instant I seemed almost to be overpowered by the scent. Having practically to shake myself free of this fancy, I found I was gazing at a picture of what was just a bunch of red roses in a simple glass vase, but so real, so perfect, that one of the roses looked as if it was about to wilt.’1    
These qualities were readily noted by the newspaper critics. Of Streeton’s exhibition at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Gallery in November 1920, the Age critic wrote: ‘a painting of a spray of plum blossom in a glass bowl… reveals the painter’s almost uncanny cleverness. To paint glass without the help of a dominant color behind it is a problem that most artists would leave severely alone. With a few sure strokes of the brush Mr. Streeton has achieved the translucency, the actual brittleness of the glass.’2
In Still Life with Roses, c.1930s, the painterly subtleties of the setting compliment the seductive reds and textured petals of the flowers, formed and highlighted by the masterly play of light and shade. Streeton's technique gives added immediacy, increasing the affinity between artist and viewer as they share in a moment of beauty, transcending the transience of nature.
As fellow artist Harold Herbert, reviewing Streeton’s solo Melbourne exhibition of 1934, which included five paintings of roses, remarked: ‘In this show, there are many beautiful flower pieces, all painted with the wizardry that is Streeton’s own… his flower pieces [are] full of fragrant freshness and convincing realism. Not only are the flowers beautifully painted and arranged, but the glazed vase or crystal bowl that contains them is an object to be admired for its masterly treatment in paint. Backgrounds of silks and velvets are other features of these studies to excite admiration.’3 Such words of praise apply equally to the present Still Life with Roses.
1. W.G.E., ‘The Streeton Collection’, Letters to the Editor, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 December 1931, p. 4
2. ‘Mr. Arthur Streeton Among The Grampians’, The Age, Melbourne, 2 November 1920, p. 8
3. Herbert, H., ‘The Art of Arthur Streeton’, The Argus, Melbourne, 5 June 1934, p. 5