By Richard Brewster, on 16-Apr-2021

To anyone who has never been to Venice, Australian artist Arthur Streeton’s (1867-1943) painting The Grand Canal, 1908 is a marvellous almost lifelike portrayal of waterways, gondolas and orange stepped terracotta tiled roofs from the lofty heights of Palazzo Foscari.

So good is the work that experts place it alongside paintings of the same subject by such international greats as French Impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926) and 18th century Venice School Italian Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697-1768) – commonly known as Canaletto.

Arthur Streeton’s painting 'The Grand Canal, 1908' estimated at $1.5 million to $2 million is a marvellous almost lifelike portrayal of waterways, gondolas and orange stepped terracotta tiled roofs from the lofty heights of Palazzo Foscari. The painting is the cover lot on Deutscher and Hackett’s Important International and Australian Art auction on April 21 at their South Yarra rooms.

Featured on the catalogue cover, the painting is lot 21 in Deutscher and Hackett’s forthcoming Important International and Australian Art auction from 7pm Wednesday April 21 at 105 Commercial Road, South Yarra and carries an estimate of $1.5 million to $2 million.

Streeton completed most of his Venetian works in 1908 (some 85 in all) and The Grand Canal is the largest.

In 1914, a month before the outbreak of World War I, Arthur Sydney Baillieu purchased the painting from the Victorian Artists Society Gallery and it remained with various branches of the famous Melbourne family for more than a century.

There are several other important and valuable paintings by leading Australian artists in the sale including Jeffrey Smart’s (1921-2013) Diversion for Siena, 2002-03 (Lot 18 ), showing a corner of present-day Tuscany and a great rendition of his enduring subject – civic progress and modernisation.

Another is John Olsen’s Wetlands, 2000 (Lot 19 ) that portrays the natural world’s fecundity and interconnecting qualities.

Now 93, Olsen has had a massively long career during which he has continued to show vitality and considerable breadth in his works.

Lot 15, Fred Williams’ (1927-1982) Lysterfield, 1965, is an instant reminder of similar works by the artist from the same period.

In 1962, Williams and his wife Lyn moved to Upwey and the topography provided the inspiration for many of his subsequent paintings.

Among other auction works, John Brack (1920-1999) features with Standing Nude, 1970 (Lot 32 ). Nudes are a consistent subject for Brack from the 1950s to the latter stages of his career – a tribute to the history of art that remained an essential touchstone for the artist throughout his life.

A small work by French Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) – Femme Nue Assise, c1916-17 (Lot 34 ) – is another drawcard, painted towards the end of his life when his hands were virtually crippled and largely useless with rheumatoid arthritis.

Australian sculptor Bertram Mackennal (1863-1931) also features with Circe, c1902-04 (Lot 20 ).

The auction begins with five silver gelatin photographs (lots 1-5) by Melbourne photographer Carol Jerrems (1949-1980) whose life and career was tragically cut short at 30 from a terminal illness.

Jerrems was the first Australian woman photographer to have her work acquired by several museums including the National Gallery of Australia.

These photographs convey various studies of human interaction with titles such as Mozart Street, 1975 (Lot 1 ) and Waiting, 1975 (Lot 2 ).

American artist Alex Katz is an interesting inclusion with his works Self Portrait, c1977 (Lot 6 ) and Ada with Head Band and Lips, c1968 (Lot 7 ) – the artist’s wife.


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About The Author

Richard Brewster has been writing about the antiques and art auction industry for almost 25 years, first in a regular weekly column for Fairfax's The Age newspaper and also in more recent times for his own website Australian Auction Review. With over 50 years experience as a journalist and public relations consultant, in 1990 Richard established his own business Brewster & Associates in Melbourne, handling a wide range of clients in the building, financial, antiques and art auction industries.