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Sydney LONG

Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia 1871 – London, England 1955

  • Movements: England, Europe 1910-21
  • Australia 1921- 22
  • England 1922-25
  • Australia 1925-52
  • England from 1952

Flamingoes c.1907 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
paintings, oil on canvas
Technique: oil on canvas
Primary Insc: Signed lower right 'SID LONG '.
30.6 h x 61.0 w cm
framed (overall)
Masterpieces for the Nation Fund 2006
Accession No: NGA 2006.2
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia.


  • Sydney Long advocated in a 1905 journal article for an Australian art that would convey the ‘lonely and primitive feeling of this country’. He was among the first generation of non-Indigenous, Australian-born artists to engage with the Australian landscape in an innovative way.

    Long drew on the decorative European influences of Art Nouveau and Symbolism to express a sense of spiritual presence in the landscape. In Flamingoes, he simplified the sinuous forms of slender eucalypts in an aesthetic response to the light, colour and mood of the bush, creating an otherworldly Australian setting for these graceful, highly coloured exotic birds.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2013
    From: Miriam kelly, Capital & Country: The Federation Years 1900 – 1913, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2013

  • 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