Lot 1
  • 1

Elioth Gruner

40,000 - 60,000 AUD
98,400 AUD
bidding is closed


  • Elioth Gruner
  • Signed and dated E. GRÜNER/ 1915 (lower right); bears artist's name and title on gallery labels on reverse
  • Oil on canvas on board


Fine Arts Gallery, Sydney
T. W. Heney, Sydney; purchased from the above in 1915
Reginald F. Higgs, Sydney
Artarmon Galleries, Sydney
The late Dr and Mrs D. R. Sheumack, Sydney; purchased from the above in 1958; thence by descent


Society of Artists' Annual Exhibition, Society's Room, Queen Victoria Markets, Sydney, November - December 1916, cat 110
Loan Exhibition of Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 4 April - 8 July 1918, cat. 138
(Probably) Exhibition of Loan Paintings by Australian Artists, United Service Club Room, Brisbane, September 1922, no. 39 or no. 40
Elioth Gruner Memorial Loan Exhibition, National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 April - 31 May 1940, cat. 19, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 5 July -  4 August 1940, cat. 33 (as 'Frosty Morn')
Loaned by Reginald Higgs to the National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney from 24 April 1942 - 4 July 1944
North Shore Festival of Arts Historic Exhibition of Colonial & Sirius Cove Painters, Artlovers' Gallery, Sydney, 1963, cat. 18
The D. R. Sheumack Collection of Australian Paintings, S. H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 17 May - 12 June 1983, cat. 36
Elioth Gruner (1882-1939), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 July - 4 September 1983, cat. 11  (bears label on reverse)


Art in Australia, 1st Series, no. 1, 1916, p. 29 (illus.)
Loan Exhibition of Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1918, p. 17 (illus.)
Art in Australia, 1st Series, no. 4, 1918, p. 19 (illus.)
Australia Beautiful: Home Easter Pictorial Annual, 1929, p.1 (illus.)
Myra Morris, Australian Landscape, Sydney: John Sands, 1944 (title page, illus.)
Elioth Gruner: Twenty-Four Reproductions in colour from Original Oil Paintings, (foreword by Norman Lindsay) Shepherd Press, Sydney, 1947, pl. 10 (illus.)
The D. R. Sheumack Collection of Australian Paintings, S. H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 1983, p. 4 (illus.) (as 'Frosty Morn')
Elioth Gruner 1882-1939, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1983, p. 34 
Robyn Christie and Justin Miller, The D. R. Sheumack Collection, Eighty Years of Australian Paintings, Sydney: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., 1988, pl. 59 (illus.) (as 'Frosty Morn')

Catalogue Note

Elioth Gruner's Emu Plains paintings of 1915-1919 are widely regarded as his finest; the Wynne Prize-winning Morning light (1916, Art Gallery of New South Wales) is considered by many to be his masterpiece. At the time he began this series, Gruner was already a mature and well-regarded professional artist working in a tonal-impressionist style variously influenced by his teacher Julian Ashton, his early idol Arthur Streeton and closer contemporaries such as J.J. Hilder, Max Meldrum and Norman Lindsay. In the wartime pastorals, however, Gruner discovered a unique and personal voice.

Having rented a cabin at Emu Plains at the foot of the Blue Mountains, on the farm of a Mr Innes, Gruner was able fully to indulge his passion for painting en plein air, directly in front of the motif. As he wrote to his friend Hans Heysen: 'I simply must work on the spot and be absolutely in touch with it.'1  More significantly, he here discovered and explored the power of painting contre-jour, directly into the sunlight. Starting work at dawn, wrapping his legs in chaff-bags against the piercing cold, Gruner created tingling impressions of 'these scintillating early mornings, when the atmosphere is pervaded by a shimmer of white light, which absorbs all actinic qualities of colour and which presents to the eye only a limitless, spaceless vista of brightness.'2

The present work is a fine example of this direct encounter with the sun.  It is a typically modest, even commonplace image of cattle and stockyards, set in the home paddocks in front of Innes' tree-shaded homestead, on the same small patch of ground that features in Morning light and Spring frost (1919, Art Gallery of New South Wales). It is evidently painted a little later in the morning than Spring frost; the shadows of the cows and fence posts are shorter, the colour has a little less of the chilly 'violaceous grey'3 favoured by the artist. But while Gruner may have removed the hessian bags, the picture retains that remarkable quality of atmosphere, of almost-sensible temperature, that characterises the Emu Plains achievement. 'Shapes in the landscape [become] dark silhouettes haloed from behind by a bright backdrop of sky ... technique and vision [become] so resolutely fused that one cannot be distinguished from the other.'4

We are most grateful to Steven Miller for his assistance in cataloguing this work.

1.  Elioth Gruner, letter to Hans Heysen, 9 April 1918, Hans Heysen papers, National Library of Australia (MSS 5073)
2.  Norman Lindsay, 'Creative vision in landscape', in Sydney Ure Smith and Leon Gellert (eds), The art of Elioth Gruner, Sydney: Art in Australia, 1922, p. 12
3.  Lionel Lindsay, letter to Hans Heysen, 29 July 1940, Hans Heysen papers, lit.cit.
4.  Barry Pearce, Elioth Gruner 1882-1939, Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1983, p. 6