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Darcy Forden,Gippsland BushTitle
Gippsland Bush

In storage

Place of origin
New South Wales, Australia


Mixed media

Winner Calleen Award 1988

Accession number

Excerpt from The Calleen Collection by Peter Haynes (2019)

C. Darcy Forden was born in 1917 and died in 1989. His work is in the collection of the Manly Art Gallery and Museum and in 1990 following his death that institution held an exhibition of 38 of the artist’s work. Unfortunately there is no information on the artist in standard references but he must have had some standing to be given a survey exhibition at one of Sydney’s leading institutions.

Gippsland Bush clearly demonstrates the artist’s considerable understanding of pictorial composition and spatial configuration. These qualities are elided with the palette that beautifully captures the characteristic colours of the Australian bush landscape. Forden’s motif is one familiar to the Australian Impressionists and the example of particularly the late 1880s landscapes of Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton hold evident relevance. The straggly verticals of the tree trunks (variously black, white and greys) create a dense amalgam of lines pushing up to the top of the picture plane. This verticality is played off against the silhouetted foliage of the trees, highlighted by the deft use of light across and through the picture plane. Like our early Impressionists Forden captures the rays of light moving through the bush, that light whose tonal qualities give a particularly Australian character to the image.

Forden also employs painterly devices more associated with modernist painting than with 19th-century Impressionism. The band of grass across the very front of the picture plane creates both areal and an imaginative visual caesura. The viewer is stopped (visually) before moving into the body of the work. The space immediately behind the grass drops away from the frontal plane, creating a rhythmical sweep through the trees to the scattered low foliage at the back of the trees. The graphic linearity of the trees and their predominantly black trunks is nicely contrasted with the softer hues of the areas of foliage and brush. Forden has learned the lessons of those artists that initiated an “Australian” school of landscape painting and has transcribed those into a contemporary vision of the bush.