Sydney Long was the leading proponent of the Art Nouveau style in Australian art at the turn of the century. From the late 1890s he developed his unique vision of the Australian landscape using the stylistic devices of the English Aesthetic Movement, which valued the beauty in objects.
Long was passionate about Australian subject matter, and his eucalypts, tea-trees and open plains are sometimes inhabited by distinctly Australian fauna, such as magpies, as well as by the nymphs and fauns of Greek myths. He did, however, also depict non-Australian subject matter, as in Flamingoes.
Long had observed flamingoes at Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney, and he returned to the subject many times. In Flamingoes
he transformed the visual realities of the landscape into a simplified and flattened composition resembling a frieze. Drawing on the Art Nouveau style, the graceful curves of the birds are silhouetted against a backdrop of highly stylised trees, and their forms are strongly modelled to give them a sharp reality. Their sinuous necks are highly suited to the flowing organic lines and sensuality of Long’s Art Nouveau approach.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008