John Peter Russell was the only Australian painter to benefit from personal and direct contact with the French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters in the 1880s, during his expatriate years in Europe.
I am a painter of nature, of nature?s moods, of sunlight and the changing temper of the sea, Russell said of himself.
Rodin writing to his friend in 1890 said: I am very happy, dear friend, for you that you cling so enthusiastically to nature. I am sure that your art is now full of sincerity and movement.
How to capture, in the purest and brightest colours, the play of light in nature preoccupied both the French Impressionists of the 1870s and Russell. He was interested in the lighting effects experienced at different hours of
the day. Monet expressed his interest in this effect by painting series of works - haystacks, his garden; Russell?s experiments were more spasmodic and not consistent.
One of the overriding concerns of the work of John Peter Russell was how to capture as quickly as possible the brilliance of colour in nature in the simplest possible way. This consisted not of hasty sketches but in finished
work in which the purity of colour and intention is maintained.
Russell had met Vincent Van Gogh in Paris and formed a friendship with him. Van Gogh spoke highly of Russell's work, and after his first summer in Arles in 1888 he sent twelve drawings of his paintings to Russell, to inform him about the progress of his work. Monet often worked with Russell at Belle Île and influenced his style, though it has been said that Monet preferred some of Russell's Belle Île seascapes to his own. Russell did not attempt to make his pictures well-known.
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