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image icon 'Winter landscape', 1940

'Winter landscape', 1940
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Description

This is a 1940 landscape painting in oils by the South Australian artist Horace Trenerry (1899-1958). It shows a coastal landscape with fence-lined paddocks running to the sea. The land is dominated by a winter sky filled with grey and white bulbous clouds. The painting style is broadly descriptive but takes its overall appearance from the thick and decisive brush lines that mark the fences running along each side of the road and that become foreshortened and pushed upwards by the demands of perspective. Bold brush work is also used to define some of the landforms and the sculptural character of the clouds. The image has a distinctive appearance - all the different areas have been 'blocked in' using only a few colours: gold, cool-blue, green, purple and pink.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • is a painting by Horace Trenerry, who is one of Australia's finest 20th-century landscape painters; during the late 1930s and 1940s he produced some of the most outstanding Australian light-filled landscapes of the period
  • reflects in its bold design style a particular approach to landscape painting in Australia that emerged in the first half of the 20th century; during this period many Australian artists adapted international, modern art styles in their explorations of local landscapes; they used elements of colour, pattern and design in very expressive ways to communicate personal insights; the simplified descriptive style of this painting represented, for some artists of this period, a compromise between modernist expression and traditional approaches to landscape
  • expresses the artist's interest in colour relationships and his particular interest in the work of the artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), who advocated a system of making art based on harmonies of tone and colour; he believed that painting should exist for its own sake, not just as a vehicle for a story or moral; 'I insist,' Whistler once said, 'on calling my works "arrangements" or "harmonies"'; Whistler titled a number of his paintings as harmonies (in different colours); in 1935 Trenerry actually used a Whistlerian title for one of his own paintings, 'Harmony in green and silver'
  • accurately captures the physical identity and visual character of a distinctive South Australian landscape - most of the landscapes Trenerry painted from the mid-1930s were of the coastal landscapes around Willunga and Aldinga, south of Adelaide; the 'bared-boned' appearance of the land and the winter colour combinations of blues and purples mixed with gold and green accurately captured the key visual elements of the area; urban development into the 20th century has meant that the road shown in this painting is now widened, bituminised and bordered in some sections by urban development, however, glimpses of the sea framed by gently rolling hillsides can still be seen
  • shows Trenerry's skill in using a roadway as a visual device - his compositions were often built around the action of the road; in this painting the road contributes a lot of energy to the image by dominating almost half the landmass area in a restful horizontal motion before jumping abruptly upwards; one art writer, Lou Klepac, has likened to this to the action of a 'wound spring'.