Elioth GRUNER, Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra Enlarge 1 /1


Gisborne, New Zealand 1882 – Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 1939

  • Australia from 1883
  • England 1924-25

Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra 1934 Place made: Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Primary Insc: signed, dated l.r., oil 'Gruner/1934'
Dimensions: 51.6 h x 89.0 w cm framed (overall) 66.1 h x 104.1 w x 6.6 d cm
Acknowledgement: Bequest of Stuart A. Johnston 1964
Accession No: NGA 64.75

Art dealer and artist John Brackenreg, who lived with Elioth Gruner in the 1930s, said Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra was painted on the road leading down to the Cotter river and depicted a scene of bucolic grandeur:

This [painting] was painted entirely plein air ... [Gruner] always painted with sun full on his canvas ... If he couldn’t finish in one go he’d paint in adjoining details in light tone so that when he went back it was all in tone. He found one of [the] most useful designs in landscapes was smoke.1

There is little evidence of man included in the painting save for glimpses of the road and sheep grazing. Two thin columns of smoke in the background hint at bushfires, but any sense of drama or narrative remains sublimated by the expanse of countryside surrounding it. Gruner was meticulous in the application of his characteristically dryish paint with which he endeavoured to achieve an evenness of surface, using typical cool pastel tones of blues and greens and simplifying the natural forms to their essential shapes.

Born in New Zealand to Norwegian and Irish parents, Gruner came to Australia in 1883. He showed precocious artistic talent, becoming Julian Ashton’s pupil at the age of 12. Awarded the 1934 Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Murrumbidgee Ranges, Canberra was painted during the last decade of Gruner’s life, when he suffered from depression. He found respite by escaping Sydney in his beloved car to roam the countryside, painting landscapes and staying with friends on their properties - he particularly responded to the quality of light found in the Murrumbidgee district.

Belinda Cotton, 2002

1 John Brackenreg in conversation with Mary Eagle, October 1982.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002