Miss Raynor

Charles Conder

Miss Raynor by Charles Conder


Charles Conder
Miss Raynor
oil on canvas on cardboard
16 x 16 cm

verso: labels (5) detailing the work by Charles Conder, including provenance

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Miss Raynor
Possibly Dr. J.W. Springthorpe, Melbourne
The Springthorpe Collection of Australian Pictures, Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 24 May 1934, lot 94, titled Landscape with Figures
George Page-Cooper, Melbourne
[Leonard Joel, Melbourne 1936?], purchased Mr Swalling
Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 13 July 1962, lot 695, titled Landscape With Figure (Miss Raynor)
Private collection, Melbourne
Deustcher - Menzies, Melbourne, April 25-26 1999, lot 91
Private collection, Melbourne


Tye's Gallery, Melbourne, 28 October 1953
Charles Conder 1868 - 1909, National Gallery of Victoria, 9 August - 4 September 1966, cat. no. 17, titled Miss Raynor (private collection, Melbourne), touring State Galleries
Annual Collectors' Exhibition 2000, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, 2000, cat. no. 15
Australian Impressionist Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 25 November 2011 - 4 March 2012


Hoff, U., Charles Conder, Lansdowne Press Pty Ltd., Melbourne, 1972, cat. no. C62, p. 102
Thomas, D., Outlines of Australian Art: The Joseph Brown Collection, Macmillan Company of Australia Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1973, pp.28, 80, illus. pl.42

Further Information

This small, rapidly painted sketch belongs to Conder's Melbourne years (1888-90) and is typical of his en plein air style. This was a style, developed in the ateliers of Paris and in the summer painting 'camps' of rural France in the 1870s that involved the artist capturing and holding the essence of the moment and the scene as he or she stood in front of it. The first marks put onto the canvas were to be the only ones: nothing was to be altered or worked over later, back in the studio. The heart of plein air painting was truth to the moment of vision. Stylistically it was characterised by clarity of vision, an understanding of technique and  poetic response to the moment.

Subject is thus everything and nothing. Miss Raynor, the principal female figure in this sketch is essential for the articulation of the work but only as a form to set against other forms - the heavy cypress tree behind her, the post and rail fence, the smoothness of the gold greens and brown of the paddock in which she stands. Her everyday dress adds to the prosaic note of the sketch, the drab attire enlivened by a few touches of red on the unfurled umbrella at her side.  Behind her stands a second female form, painted even more ethereally in relation to the raking light that falls from left to right across the picture plane and is even less identifiable.

'Mrs (sic) Raynor was a student friend of Conder and was sketched by him during a picnic outing in Melbourne during his stay there (1889)'. She seems to have modelled for Conder on other occasions. Another study of her, an oil on cedar panel, in which she wears a  rather more elaborate costume and is seated on a river bank, is to be found in the Joseph Brown Collection.

This a painting in which Conder is exploring the possibilities of the square brush technique, a technique synonymous with en plein air painting and one which characterises the oil sketches of Streeton Roberts and Conder in the 18 month period 1888-90. This was a time when they often worked together and exhibited their sketches together, notably in the notorious '9 x 5' Exhibition staged at Buxton's Gallery in Swanston Street Melbourne in August 1889. It is a style of painting characterised by square blocky forms, broad sweeps of pigment and a lack of attention to detail. As the well known French Academician and teacher Jean-Leon Gerome said; 'When you draw, form is the important thing; but in painting the first thing to look for is the general impression of colour'. Roberts is said to have brought this saying back to Melbourne and the three artists felt it so characterised what they were attempting with their oil sketches that they had it printed in the Catalogue to the '9 x 5' Exhibition.

By the late nineteenth century the spontaneous qualities of the sketch were becoming more and more prized by critics and collectors. As part of the move towards modernism, the subject of a picture was seen to be of less importance than the manner in which it was handled - Monet's series of Haystacks done in the late 1880s early 1890s being the prime example of this. A new aesthetic was emerging but it was less understood in the more conservative English-speaking countries than in France and almost completely mis-understood at the time in Melbourne when the local art critic of the Argus, James Smith, castigated the artists for the lack of 'finish' amongst other things when he reviewed their 'impressionist' exhibition in 1889. 'A Sketch. Miss Rayner' although not exhibited at the '9 x 5' Exhibition belongs within Conder's exploration of this new aesthetic, the 'new art' which was so controversial in Melbourne in the late 1880s.

 Ann Galbally,
Extract LDFA Annual Collectors' Exhibition Catalogue 2000

Charles Conder - Biography