In Sydney Long’s Springtime, the air and water seem alive, but also still and silent. The scene is luminous and full of colour. Near the grassy bank of a river or lake are two trees whose branches flaunt their blossom. The subject of blossom suited Long’s delicate sense of colour and decoration, enabling him to express a certain mood, a poetic fascination with the transience of beauty. Indeed, Long was not so much concerned with depicting a specific place as he was with conjuring a view of nature at a time of transition—of blooming loveliness.
Long frequently depicted accidental places of beauty, intimate landscapes rather than grand vistas. Farmhouse is such an image of the natural world. It demonstrates Long’s feeling for strong form and colour. Overshadowed by a hill, a grey stone farmhouse stands still and secluded, nestling among the trees, with a belt of fenced yards before it. Silence reigns over the place. The farmhouse has a large roof and no veranda. The sun shines on a sea of flowers and grass in the foreground. The strong triangular shape of the dark blue hill is counterpoised against the sloping green paddock and tied down by the small farmhouse.
Long’s interest in decoration is evident in these two watercolours, with the curved trunks of the trees and the strongly geometrical compositions, but he did not populate these landscapes with sprites as he did in his more celebrated Art Nouveau images, rather he sought to evoke the spirit of the land through the depiction of nature itself.
Anne Gray Head of Australian Art
in artonview, issue 70, winter 2012