Elioth Gruner Spring frost 1919

Elioth Gruner

New Zealand, Australia 1882–1939
Born in New Zealand, Gruner moved to Sydney with his family when he was just one. Often regarded as the last of the Australian Impressionists, Gruner continued the traditions of the Heidelberg school. He established a reputation as perhaps the country’s most accomplished and lyrical painter of light and certainly its most dedicated plein-air painter, always painting in front of his subject.

Gruner won the Wynne Prize seven times during his career, including in 1919 for Spring frost.

Spring frost 1919

This is possibly the most popular Australian landscape painting in the Gallery. Painted just after the First World War, it has an abiding sense of peace and tranquillity. It’s a poetic image of plenitude, comfort and a fresh start, although not entirely realistic: the sun couldn’t possibly create that exact pattern of shadows.

Gruner painted Spring frost almost entirely outdoors at Emu Plains on Sydney’s western outskirts. He wrapped his legs with chaff bags to keep off the cold morning air and built a structure to protect the canvas from the elements.

People and places

The clan lands of the Eora people were forever changed with the establishment of the colonial settlement on the shores of Port Jackson in 1788. Sydney then spread to the more fertile farming areas along the rivers running south and west and across the flatter lands to the west, then eventually north across the harbour. Since the 1950s, with an increased reliance on cars, its outer suburbs have expanded significantly. Places such as Emu Plains, Parramatta and Richmond, for example, are no longer agricultural or rural. The greater metropolitan region of Sydney is now said to extend from Port Stephens in the north to Kiama in the south, and includes some townships in the Blue Mountains which are up to 120 kilometres west of Sydney’s CBD.