Gruner moved to Australia at a young age, and in 1901 began selling paintings to Sydney’s Society of Artists, where his work gradually gained traction. It was not until 1923, however, that Gruner garnered much of his inspiration from his travels across Europe, where pioneers of European Modernism conjured a rethinking of his artistic technique. The paintings of Cézanne introduced him to a high-key palette, whilst those of Gauguin revealed the beauty of expressive brushstrokes and simplified forms. Upon his return to Australia, Gruner’s repertoire developed in accordance with his European counterparts – A simplification of subject matter, an increased attention to pattern, and a freer, wider sweep of the brush set him apart from his Australian equals.
The Silver Light of Summer Morn is a fine example of Gruner’s dedication to plein-air painting, in which we’re presented with his new, excited and liberal working of the brush. A vast turquoise sky extends across most of the composition, subsuming a mellow swathe of sand, and a delicate slither of seawater disappears into the bright horizon. Rougher topology in the distance smoothly tapers down to a low vanishing point, convening with the lighter tones of the water’s surface. We are not, however, the only admirers of this placid view. To the bottom right two women regard the calm waters with their backs to the viewer, one leisurely reclining beneath a pink parasol, the other standing. A deckchair endorses this site as one frequently revered by visitors, accentuated by more distant figures merrily testing the waters of the calm Pacific Ocean.
Nonetheless, we’re still drawn to the sprawling sky that dwarfs all the participants in this blissful scene – Gruner’s affirmation of the landscape as the most important facet of this masterful work. The atmosphere is palpable; long shadows allude to the early time of day –a raw light often favoured by Gruner. The painting evokes a certain ephemerality, as if the tide will soon rise, consuming the lowly swathe of sand; the seated woman will surely raise and fold her parasol, continuing with the nearby figure for an amble along the beach. The solitary deckchair will not remain on the sand forever, and the light will change as the day progresses.
It is this refreshing simplicity of elements – an impression of a calm Pacific morning – which marked Elioth Gruner as an artist of distinguished skill, worthy of receiving the Wynne Prize seven times across three decades of painting. The Silver Light of Summer Morn is a demonstration of nostalgia, and a celebration of local beauty. It references the theory of artist Max Meldrum who proposed tone as the most important element of any painting. Most importantly, however, is that Gruner painted the unpaintable: the element of light itself.
VIEWING | Sat 10 & Sun 11 November, 12 noon to 4pm | Mon 12 & Tues 13 October,
10.00am to 5pm | Morning of sale from 9am
AUCTION | Five Centuries: Furniture, Paintings & Works of Art from 1600 |
14th November 2018 | 10am in Edinburgh
LOCATION | 33 Broughton Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3RR