Wednesday Art

There is a painting in the Art Gallery of South Australia that I have loved every since I first saw it when I was teenager and I love it still - it projects tranquility and peace of a time long gone. I thought I would share it with you. 

Title: Evening shadows, backwater of the Murray, South Australia

Artist: H J Johnstone (1835-1907)

This is a large oil painting (120.6 cm x 184.1 cm), created by H J Johnstone, that depicts a twilight scene on the backwaters of the Murray River (which runs through South Australia) in the late 19th century. The fading light has almost turned the giant red river gums that dominate the scene into silhouettes, exaggerating the bulk of their trunks and the twisted angles of their limbs. Two Indigenous people are sitting alongside a bark hut and a campfire - a third person is about to cross a fallen tree that spans the river to join them. This is an apparently timeless, pre-British colonial scene; however, a small clue, the blanket around the shoulders of the old man, reveals that contact between Indigenous people and British colonists has occurred. The nagging thought that this small group of people might be all that remains of an entire community alters the meaning and mood of this striking image. This could be a freeze-frame from an antipodean horror story.

Interesting facts:
  • was the first work of art to be acquired by the Art Gallery of South Australia
  • is among the most reproduced works in the Gallery's collection - it has been a favourite with Gallery visitors since it was acquired
  • is perhaps the most copied painting in Australian art - from the late 1880s, 'Evening shadows' was regularly copied by art students; more than 90 copies of the painting (made by both skilled artists and enthusiastic amateurs) are known to exist.
Text from the Art Gallery of South Australia website

Below is two other examples of Johnstone's paintings.


  1. Beautiful paintings, the light and contrasts are very spectacular, pity you can't have the real painting coming out of the blog, in full size!! LL S.

  2. Those are beautiful! I love scenes like this, they are just amazing... The type of artwork I have always wanted to aspire to!! :)

  3. Jo, I really love Australian landscapes, when it comes to paintings. The 2nd one is my favourite of these in this post... just gorgeous!

  4. Recognizably Australian rather than a transplanted England ~ & very nice too. ☺

  5. Your art lesson posts are the best! I quite like this painter and his especial use of light, and ability to capture it. Thank you for sharing this. I am learning a lot!


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