Charles Conder - Australian Early Impressionist

That period of time between the years 1887 and 1894 in Melbourne is often referred to as the "golden age" of art.

The hot sands, 1891 by Charles Conder
The hot sands, 1891 by Charles Conder

It was during this time, in August 1889 that a little exhibition of paintings was held in Melbourne which attracted a good deal of attention. It was called "The Nine by Five Impression Exhibition," and the chief exhibitors were Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, and Charles Conder.

Charles Conder only 15 years old when he came to Australia in 1883. He was the second son of James Conder, an engineer in the Indian railways, he had been taken India as a baby by his mother. She died when he was 8 years old. Conder was then sent back to England to be brought up by a friend of his mother.

He travelled to Australia to work under his Uncle in the New South Wales Land Department, where he spent eight months before roughing it in the outback for two years in a survey camp. However, a young Conder much preferred drawing and painting landscapes to mapping them out. Then he joined the "Illustrated Sydney News," as an illustrator. In his spare time, he travelled to Richmond to paint. He also began to exhibit but he did not really make his mark till he migrated to Melbourne in 1888.

During the five years that he lived in Sydney and Melbourne, it was generally recognised, more especially amongst his fellow artists, that he was an original talent. In Melbourne, he met Streeton and Roberts and was much influenced by the former's work.

He reproached his younger cousin when she referred in a letter to his painting "as his hobby." He protested that art was almost a religion to him.

Gradually he came to be recognised as a youth of immense promise, and the generosity of a relative enabled him to study in Paris. Conder left Melbourne for Paris at the age of 21, in 1890, where, in the course of a year or two, his art quickly attracted notice by its charm and originality. In 1895 he finally settled in London, where he died in 1909 and where he did some of his finest work.

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