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image icon 'How we lost poor Flossie'

'How we lost poor Flossie'
Art Gallery of South Australia


This is a scene set in Collins Street, the most important street in Melbourne, on its smartest block, on a misty day in 1889. In a half-lit world, where horse-drawn carriages and pedestrians are constantly on the move, two dogs - a white terrier and a mongrel - exchange greetings. This small work, which measures 25.0 cm x 9.2 cm, was painted in oils on a cedar panel in 1889 by Charles Conder (1868-1909).

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • is one of the works included in the famous 9 x 5 Impressionist Exhibition of 1889, which was organised by the artist Tom Roberts (1856-1931) - the 'impressions' made by Roberts, Charles Conder, Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917) and others in the 9 x 5 Exhibition were small; many were painted on cigar-box lids of a uniform size of 9 by 5 inches (22.9 centimetres by 12.7 centimetres), hence the name of the Exhibition
  • shows the direct influence of Roberts's recent European travel, particularly his encounter in London in 1884, with the work and ideas of the artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) - Whistler 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"'
  • demonstrates Conder's ability to capture a quick impression of scenes and figures - in 'Flossie' this is evident in the rapid but confident use of brushstrokes and the use of alternating dark and light tones to capture a sense of dramatic action on a wet day in a busy street
  • is an example of a work by an emerging member of a circle of 'plein air' (open air) artists that, under the leadership of Tom Roberts, was capturing the imagination of the Melbourne art scene
  • demonstrates the artist's inventive approach - Conder retained the texture of the wood grain of the panel, which cleverly creates an impression of lightly falling rain
  • illustrates the artist's keen and observant eye for fashion - the primary details of the woman with an umbrella in the foreground are merely sketched in, leaving the viewer's imagination to make up the rest
  • was considered, by some of the other 9 x 5 artists, to be the best work in the exhibition
  • records a domestic episode - Flossie (who belonged to the artist Frederick McCubbin), ran off with the bigger dog soon after this greeting and was never seen again.