Australia 1899 – 1958

The ploughed field 1947 Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas on cardboard Support: mounted on composition board

Primary Insc: signed l.l., pen and ink (illeg.) "(TRENNERY ...?)", not dated
Dimensions: 48.0 h x 65.5 w cm framed (overall) 692 h x 865 w x 35 d mm
Acknowledgement: Bequest of Dr Mildred Mocatta 1984
Accession No: NGA 84.1267
  • Horace Trenerry, an eccentric and bohemian character who lived most of his life in relative artistic isolation, possessed an acute eye for the landscape without being confined to the ‘blue and gold’ tradition embodied by Arthur Streeton and a host of other artists of an earlier period. Struggling to realise a style of his own in the countryside surrounding Adelaide, Trenerry emerged from the influence of Elioth Gruner and Hans Heysen and matured into one of the most interesting and original painters of his time.

    Works executed during the artist’s last and most accomplished period, between 1945 and 1951, show a mature painter with a confident freedom of expression and a strong sense of originality. The chalky oil paint – mixed in low, luminous tones of blue, grey and purple that are somehow appropriate to the all-pervasive, vertical light of the South Australian landscape – achieves a rare balance of spirituality and physical presence.

    The ploughed field, painted with a sombre palette and thin expressive surface, flattens and compresses a landscape flooded with a directionless, fragmented light – which shows Trenerry’s commitment to the artist’s vision rather than to a realistic representation of the subject.

    The ordinary has been transformed into the imaginative. The landscape of Wilunga has been removed from a specific time and place to be released, both by the unnatural colour combinations and by Trenerry’s dry, scumbled surface, into the realm of contemplation and metaphor.

    Tim Fisher 20021

    1 Tim Fisher, ‘Horace Trennery’, Australian National Gallery Association News, January/February 1987, p.5.

    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