Australia Arts and Culture: European Art in Australia

In the 1880s a group of young-artists developed the first distinctively Australian style of watercolor painting. Working from a permanent bush camp in Melbourne's (then) outer suburb of Box Hill, the painters captured the unique qualities of Australian life and the bush.

The work of this group is generally referred to as the Heidelberg School, although the majority of the work was done at Box Hill. In Sydney a contemporary movement worked at Sirius Cove on Sydney Harbour. Both groups were influenced by the French plein-air painters, whose practice of working outdoors to capture the effects of natural light led directly to Impressionism. The main artists were Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin, Louis Abrahams, Charles Conder, Julian Ashton and, later, Walter Withers. Their works can be found in most of the major galleries.

In the 1940s, under the patronage of John and Sunday Reed at their home in suburban Melbourne, a new generation of artists redefined the direction of Australian art. This group included some of Australia's most famous contemporary artists, such as Sir Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd.

More recently the work of painters such as Fred Williams, John Olsen and Brett Whiteley has made an impression on the international art world, Whiteley, probably Australia's most well-known modem artist, died in 1992.