A taste for poetic crepuscular pictures was a feature of Federation landscapes and, in Dawn landscape c1905, Florence Fuller depicted a scene in the early hours of the day, with the sun just rising on the horizon. Sheep feed quietly in the foreground, before a meandering stream and two slender gum trees. The image has much of the poetic qualities of the landscapes of Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts during their Heidelberg period.
Florence Fuller is arguably one of Western Australia’s most significant artists from the Federation period and her work is central to the story of Western Australian art. Born in South Africa, Fuller moved to Victoria as a child in 1872. She studied art at the National Gallery of Victoria School in Melbourne and subsequently with her uncle Robert Dowling, who was Melbourne’s most sought-after portraitist of the mid 1880s. In 1889, she was awarded the Victorian Artists’ Society prize for the best portrait painted by an artist under the age of 25. She furthered her studies in Paris and exhibited in the Paris Salon and the Royal Academy before joining her sister the singer Amy Fuller in Perth, where she remained for four years from 1904 to 1908. She was one of the most experienced artists in Western Australia at the time and taught, among others, Kathleen O’Connor.
When Fuller held an exhibition of 41 works in Perth in 1905, the newspaper proprietor Winthrop Hackett described her painting Early morning, purchased for the Art Gallery of Western Australia, as being ‘probably the greatest success in the domain of pure impressionism … because of its pure tone, its admirable perspective and its strongly vivid reproduction of that mysterious and evanescent but always brilliant colouring that is momentarily lent by the sunrise’. This comment could equally apply to Dawn landscape.
Head of Australian Art
in artonview, issue 67, spring 2011