"One Summer Again" outlines the development of the Heidelberg School. Sometimes known as the "Australian Impressionists", the Heidelberg School was founded by Tom Roberts in the late 1880s and changed the course of Australian art. They sought to break away from the formal, academic style of English colonial art. Like their French counterparts, the Heidelberg School were interested in light and its effects on the landscape.
This three part television series mainly focuses on Tom Roberts. In the beginning we see him standing at an easel working on a landscape. A young boy comes up to him and says: "What are you doing?" Roberts almost sounds like he's in a state of awe when he whispers the reply: "Painting".
Tom Roberts left his secure position as a society photographer to become a full-time painter. The bushland around Melbourne (where the Heidelberg School was based) was captured on canvas in a looser, more dynamic, more realistic manner than that of the artists who habitually painted English trees in an Australian setting.
In one scene Roberts tells his friend and fellow artist Frederick McCubbin to use flat brushes, which were not widely available in Australia at the time. McCubbin marvels at the difference this new type of brush makes. As the story progresses Roberts' circle of friends widens to include such artists as Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder and Jane Sutherland. Being a female art student, Sutherland was not allowed to draw male models in the life drawing class. The disagreements she had with the establishment demonstrate the sexism prevailing in the art world in the 19th century. (Are things much different today I wonder?)
Ignoring the artistic conventions of the time, the Heidelberg artists forged ahead, Roberts creating his famous painting "Shearing the Rams". Although "One Summer Again" is supposed to take place in the 19th century, the outdoor scenes in the city make no attempt to hide the modern cars and skyscrapers. Rather than being jarring anachronisms, these give the series a surreal atmosphere. It also serves to remind us how much Melbourne has changed since the time of the Heidelberg painters. Melbourne in the 1980s would seem like a science fiction world to Tom Roberts and his friends.
"One Summer Again" highlights a momentous development in Australian art. It is a story that is sure to be appreciated by art students, connoisseurs and those with an interest in historical drama.
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