The painted ‘etude is a nineteenth century French term denoting a study made directly from nature – en plain aire. They were usually small, executed at speed, as the first broad encounter with a new motif. The landscape ‘etude had long been a foundational part of French academic practice, essential to the training of the eye, hand, memory, and the development of a repertoire of techniques. Back in the studio they functioned as an aide-memoire , touchstones that often informed larger studio works that were alternatively described as ‘ebauches or tableaux depending upon the degree of finish.
Early French exponents were artists like Camille Corot, Theodore Rousseau and Claude Monet. Back in Melbourne the famous 9”x5” Impressions Exhibition of Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Co. of 1889 were actually ‘etudes painted on cigar box lids.
As a landscapist I have long made ‘etudes as an important part of my studio practice. ‘Etudes 1977-1999 is a selection from my studio archive, here being shown for the first time. Some were painted in France; others in Scotland and England, most in Australia. As such they are painted “in the moment” standing alone as finished works. There is much to learn in the landscape, but what the German philosopher Goethe declared in 1831 still holds : the landscapist must have some insight into botany and geology so he can express the characteristics of trees, plants and mountains. Such insights take time to become instinctual, before they can really inform the overriding aim of capturing the spirit of place – the genii loci.