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 1891 in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. 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”. The most interesting features of this work under the formal framework are the use of the rule of thirds in the composition of the horizon, showing the “walls of rock” to “run high up”, and the use of contrast to render the “great dragon’s mouth” the focal point of the painting.
Fire’s On is a landscape that realistically depicts the harsh, sunburnt Australian terrain, so as to enhance its greatness and divinity, ultimately celebrating its “unique qualities” in accordance with the “rising nationalistic sentiment” of the time. The subject matter includes a blue, cloudless sky, the foreground for which is the steep “walls of rock”, which fill the majority of the picture plane and are “crowned” with the “bronze green” “gums” at the top of the horizon. Furthermore, the painting exhibits miners surrounding the “crest mouth”, more over a railroad under construction, and from it an ascending stream of smoke.
To produce Fire’s On, among many Impressionistic works of the Australian terrain, Streeton would habitually immerse himself in the environment that comprised his chosen subject matter by doing various things such as conversing with locals, producing preliminary watercolour sketches and, most importantly, observing the chosen scene in a longstanding, reverent manner, to ensure that he had appreciated it fully. After identifying with the momentary effects and transience of light within the chosen setting, Streeton attempted to “attain” it in its fullest “glory” and...
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