'Hot wind' 1889
Acquired with the assistance of the Sarah and Baillieu Myer Family Foundation 2006
Painted during the great Victorian drought of 1888--89, Hot wind caused a stir when it was first exhibited. The painting is arguably the most important of Charles Conder's group of allegorical paintings, reflecting his awareness of contemporary symbolist trends in Europe.
It evokes the intense bright light and searing heat of the Australian summer. The bleached, shimmering tonality of the foreground landscape is characteristic of the artist's foremost works. Certainly, Conder felt it was one of his best paintings and his artist friend Arthur Streeton was impressed and delighted by the way that the design broke with tradition.
In a letter of 1889 Conder wrote that Hot wind represented the harshness of drought. The femme fatale breathing smoke from a burning brazier across parched desert plains towards a distant town aptly symbolises the spectre of drought. He heightened the eerie effect by creating an emptiness of the space in the foreground with a serpent slithering towards the recumbent spirit. The painting also reflects Conder's profound awareness of human mortality (as a result of the death of his brother).
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008
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