Elioth Gruner, artist
who found support
for his work from
the Gordons of Manar
'Australian Autumn, Manar' by Elioth Gruner - painted sometime between 1933 and 1939
Around 1921 Gruner first visited Manar, a large cattle and sheep property between Bungendore and Braidwood, on the other side of the Tinderry Range from Michelago. Manar belonged to Deuchar Gordon (1871-1951), whose family had extensive established holdings in the region going back to the 1830s. Gordon was a member - and president in the 1930s - of the Australian Club, established in 1837 to facilitate the 'social and literary interests of the colony and for the general interests of country gentlemen', and he and other landowners in the region such as Granville Ryrie of Michelago and the Langs at Carlaminda on the Monaro, hosted artists and writers and supported their work. Gruner was a welcome visitor to these homesteads, interested in the land as well as the social pursuits of their owners - music, literature, gardens.
Gruner's relationship with the Gordons lasted until his death, close to twenty years, and he returned to Manar a number of times. Deuchar and other members of his family purchased Gruner's paintings and the artist made them a number of gifts of works.
Gruner sometimes repeated a view, particularly an ambitious one, in a smaller and larger format, often presenting the smaller one as a gift to a country host. The two versions of his 1921 view of Manar landscape are taken from a hill behind the homestead looking north-east with the Budawang Ranges forming the horizon. The house is not the subject of the view, but the fulcrum, its oasis of established evergreen trees the settled heart of the landscape. Although the view is quite conventional in composition and style, there is evidence in the simple even treatment of the hills to the left and the distant mountains of Gruner paring back his painting to a drier, flatter approach, removed from the seduction of paint surfaces. The later Manar landscape 1928 looks south-east towards the coast from a hill on the other side of the homestead, with the Budawang Ranges again the horizon line, and is distinctly modern in its division into flat bands of green and olive fields and forests, with the contours of the land and the driveways and paddock boundaries criss-crossing in rhythmic patterns.
Gruner also made paintings around the homestead, in the rambling garden and orchard which supplied the family with apples, pears, quinces and plums and was central to life at Manar. The exuberant Autumn, Manar c1939 is one of several paintings using the motif of a stand of fruit trees against a backdrop of spreading evergreens to explore the transient beauty of seasonal change. They are worked in a post-impressionist manner, with splashes of colour for leaves (and blossoms) and rich emerald and violet shadows. The drive, Manar c1939 is poignant, possibly representing Gruner's last leaving of the property, and its white sky and tracery of trees and dwindling autumn leaves casts the landscape in a wintry pallor.
Gruner was drawn to the quiet grandeur of this region of dry plains and bare hills ringed with ancient mountain ranges, which suited his increasing interest in the construction of landscape through its underlying form. The air is crisp and dry in this part of the world, giving it great clarity of light and sense of distance and space, qualities the artist sought to encapsulate within the reductive modernism of his mature style.
(Extract from Deborah Clark's 'Elioth Gruner: The Texture of Light')
Deborah Clark has written about Elioth Gruner's work
Deborah Clark is senior curator at Canberra Museum and Gallery
and you can hear her talk about Elioth Gruner here
'Manar, Bungendore' by Elioth Gruner
This is another lovely work by Elioth Gruner: 'Spring in the Orchard'
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