Sydney Long Pan 1898

Sydney Long

Australia, England 1871–1955
The influence of international movements such as Aestheticism and art nouveau is clear in Pan, even though Long had not yet ventured out of his home state of New South Wales when he painted it.

Long was at the forefront of a shift towards a more abstract painting in Australia at the end of the 19th century. He was also a major figure in the Australian etching revival of the 1920s and ’30s, and served as a trustee of the Gallery from 1933 to 1949.

Pan 1898

This painting was based on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem ‘A musical instrument’. It features Pan, a pagan god of nature – half-man and half-beast – playing his reed pipe to a gathering of nymphs and satyrs. The music is reflected visually in a series of rhythmic arabesques in the shape of the trees and the dancing bodies.

Long presented an alternative vision of the Australian bush by combining mythological subject matter with a Symbolist decorative style. Rather than a realistic representation of the landscape, he transformed it into an arena of sensation and emotion.

  • View Pan in the collection

Related material

An etching by Long in the Gallery’s collection is based on his painting of the same name, highlighting the different effects of the two mediums.