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Lifestyle : Sydney Harbour in Spring
1HERSA1 S003 The Sydney Morning Herald Friday, September 28, 2012 3 SPECIAL REPORT A Herald Special Report Editor Bellinda Kontominas, firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Nicole Stagg, (02) 8596 4154, email@example.com Readerlink 9282 1569, firstname.lastname@example.org Cover Yvette Bishop and baby Holly enjoy Parsley Bay Reserve. Photo: Sasha Woolley A source of creative inspiration More than just a pretty face, the harbour has long been a muse for artists, writes Megan Johnston. I t peeps through windows, laps at waterfront homes and circumscribes streets across the city. It's only natural, then, that a presence as vast as Sydney Harbour plays such a prominent role in so many creative depictions of the city. From its early portrayals in Aboriginal lore to Brett Whiteley's lyrical contemporary paintings, the harbour has long been a muse and home to artists and storytellers alike. ''Sydney Harbour has always drawn artists to its beauty,'' the assistant curator of Australian art at the Art Gallery of NSW, Natalie Wilson, says. Many of the big names of Australian art have turned their attention to the harbour at some point, covering almost every artistic movement and mode of expression. The early settlement and working harbour, for example, are documented in the colonial-era watercolours of Conrad Martens, Charles Bayliss's photographic panoramas, and paintings by Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts, both of the Heidelberg School. Photographer Henri Mallard, printmaker Margaret Preston and modernist painter Grace Cossington Smith later captured the Harbour Bridge, while Max Dupain, Lloyd Rees and William Dobell were drawn to the Opera House. More recently, Ken Done's vivid paintings celebrated the splendour of the harbour. ''Artists are fascinated by the way [the harbour] has changed over the centuries and the fact it has these moods and moments that you can never capture twice,'' Wilson says. Writing, too, has inspired painters. John Olsen's 1963 work Five Bells (pictured) was based on Kenneth Slessor's elegy of the same name, which commemorates his friend Joe Lynch, who drowned in the harbour. The poem remains one of the great pieces of writing about the harbour, says author Delia Falconer, whose book Sydney is devoted to her home town. ''[Five Bells] does seem to capture a feeling that many people have about Sydney, that beneath that very beautiful glittering water, there are other, possibly darker, forces,'' Falconer says. The harbour is a rich source of evocative descriptions, too, as in this line from Slessor's prose piece Portrait of Sydney: ''The water is like silk, like pewter, like blood, like a leopard's skin, and, occasionally, merely like water.'' While a few works -- such as Eleanor Dark's Waterway -- focus directly on the harbour itself and incidents such as the 1927 ferry disaster, others often depict it as a vague force or presence beneath the city. Fiona McGregor's Indelible Ink dwells on plants grown by the harbour, and Dorothy Hewett's poem Window on Sydney provides glimpses of the harbour. Patrick White's novels, including The Vivisector, depict it as ''a kind of kelpy, humid sort of presence'', Falconer says. ''It's something you live and breathe as an inner-city citizen -- it's not something that's just picturesque.'' CLASSES & COURSES Harbour photography workshop, Saturday, April 6, $595 (markgray.com.au). Children's harbour printmaking class, Thursday, October 4, $50 (artest.com.au). Landscape painting classes by the harbour, 10 Saturdays from October 13-December 15, $350 (julianashtonartschool.com.au). ''En plein air'' drawing class, by appointment, about $60 an hour for groups. Private lessons available (cillacampbell.com).
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