Heidelberg School

The Heidelberg School was an Australian art movement of the late 19th century. The movement has latterly been described as Australian Impressionism.
The works of these artists are notable, not only for their merits as compositions, but as part of Australia's cultural heritage. The period leading up to Federation in 1901 saw an upsurge in Australian nationalism, and is the setting for many classic stories of Australian folklore, made famous in the works of bush poets associated with the Bulletin School, such as Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. The Heidelberg School's work provides a visual complement to these tales and their images have become icons of Australian art. The artists are well-represented in Australia's major public galleries, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Opened at 9 Collins Street in April 1888, Grosvenor Chambers, built "expressly for occupation by artists", quickly became the focal point of Melbourne's art scene, and an urban base from which members of the Heidelberg School could meet the booming city's demand for portraits. Tom Roberts, Jane Sutherland and Clara Southern were the first to occupy studios in the building, and were soon followed by Charles Conder and Louis Abrahams.
When a severe economic depression hit Melbourne in 1890, Roberts and Streeton moved to Sydney, first setting up camp at Mosman Bay, a small cove of the harbour, before finally settling around the corner at Curlew Camp, which was accessible by the Mosman ferry. Other plen air painters occasionally joined them at Curlew, including prominent art teacher and Heidelberg School supporter Julian Ashton, who resided nearby at the Balmoral artists' camp. Ashton had earlier painted with Conder during the latter's Sydney days, and in 1890, as a trustee of the National Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, he encouraged the art museum to purchase Streeton's Heidelberg landscape Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide (1890)the first painting by the artist to enter a public gallery. The more sympathetic patronage shown by Ashton and others in Sydney inspired other Melbourne artists to join them.
Like many of their contemporaries in Europe and North America, members of the Heidelberg School adopted a direct and impressionistic style of painting. They regularly painted landscapes en plein air, and sought to depict daily life. They showed a keen interest in the effects of lighting, and experimented with a variety of brushstroke techniques. Unlike the more radical approach of the French Impressionists, the Heidelberg School painters often maintained some degree of academic emphasis on form, clarity and composition. The latter group had little direct contact with the former; for example, it was not until 1907 that McCubbin saw their works in person, which is reflected in his evolution towards a looser, more abstracted style.