Cultural Analysis on Arthur Streeton's "Fire's on"

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In this response, I intend to discuss Arthur Streeton’s Fire’s On, a 183.8 x 122.5cm oil on canvas painting, produced in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia in 1891, after “nationalistic sentiment” had taken its toll with the centennial of the European settlement. Fire’s On depicts the steep “walls of rock” “crowned” with “bronze green” “gums” and the “crest mouth” that he encountered on his journey through the Blue Mountains. Streeton created this painting to justly portray the rough, “glor[ious]”, unsung landscape of Australia, namely its “great, gold plains” and “hot, trying winds”. Thus, Streeton defied the inaccurate depictions of Australian landscape produced in the early nineteenth century by early immigrants, showing “green hills” and “bubbling streams”. The most interesting features of this painting under the Cultural framework include the positioning of the horizon above, rather than below, the centre of the picture plane, contrary to the conventions of traditional landscape painting. Furthermore, the use of harmonious, naturalistic colour and the Impressionistic application of paint allow Streeton to authentically capture the “fleeting” or “momentary effects” of nature and the rugged beauty of Australian terrain, contrary to the works of his contemporaries.

Fire’s On is a landscape painting that authentically portrays the vastness and divinity of Australia’s harsh, rugged terrain. The individual elements that can be seen in the picture plane include the “deep blue”, cloudless sky, the foreground for which is the steep “walls of rock”, “run[ning] high up” and “crown[ed]” with “gums bronze green”. The “deep blue azure heaven”, flat and unvarying across the backdrop, as well as the steepness of the crest and the tonal sharpness and irregular form of the rocks, are together an expression of “nationalistic sentiment”, distinguishing Australian from European landscape and “celebrat[ing] the [latter’s] unique qualities”. Incidentally, the...
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