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Arthur Streeton - war artist

The Somme Valley near Corbie painted by Arthur Streeton in 1919 (AWM ART03497).

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Posted on August 20 2018

One of Australia’s greatest landscape artists, Sir Arthur Streeton, was appointed an official war artist by the Commonwealth Government in 1918.

Best known as a painter in Melbourne’s Heidelberg school in the 1890s, Streeton was living in London when war broke out. In 1915, aged 48, he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps – along with fellow artist Tom Roberts – and served two years as an orderly at Wandsworth Hospital.

Streeton spent from May to August recording the battlefields around the Somme River and returned to France in October to record the aftermath of the 2nd Australian Division’s victories at Peronne and Mont St Quentin.

'The ward' painted by Streeton depicts a nurse working in the interior of a ward at the 3rd Australian General Hospital, Abbeville, with two soldiers seated wearing the convalescent uniform known as 'Hospital Blues' (AWM ART93184).

He produced 10 paintings and 86 drawings in 1918 and 1919 – largely landscapes showing the impact on the terrain – that are held by the Australian War Memorial.

Streeton’s subjects ranged from dressing stations at Villers-Bretonneux and the Somme valley above Corbie to a painting depicting Australian soldiers gathered in Peronne square around a burning effigy of the German Kaiser on Armistice Day.

This story was published as part of the Road to Remembrance series developed in partnership with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Fairfax Media.

 

Studio portrait of the Streeton family. Identified from left to right, Lieutenant Arthur Ernest Streeton, Official War Artist; his son, Oliver Streeton and wife Mrs Mary Streeton (AWM P03451_004).

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