Old Timber Railway Bridge, Heyfield near Walhalla in Victoria
This comparatively large painting was preceded by a fairly complete drawing done at Hayfield in the Gippsland area of the state of Victoria, Australia. It is a small town nestling in the foothills of mountainous country; the logging and the timber milling region for the state. The area, which is lushly vegetated, was settled early on in the history of Australia and claimed a number of goldmining towns in the vicinity of which Walhalla is possibly the most noted. Being a timber region extensive bridgeworks were constructed for the railway line of 1878 in timber and remain in use today.
In the drawing, and the painting which followed it the artist indicates the massiveness of the construction with straight vertical and horizontal fines. These, boldly laid on in contrast to the fight and delicate treatment of the same elements in the, Abandoned Yellow Timber Hay Barn in Gippsland° are inpainted with solid flat areas of mauve, madder, cobalt and ceruleum blue. The road in the foreground and the hill through which it passes are treated in a similar fashion in a gamut of greens which foreshadow in their range the subsequent 'Mount Buffalo waterfall' . In the upper reaches of the painting the luxuriant foliage of the trees are laid in, in firm brushstrokes offering a vertical contrast to the horizontal railbed cutting across the width of the canvas. This painting as are most of his Australian period works is of Belgian linen primed with a semi absorbent chalk medium. Over this is applied an undercoat of raw umber upon which the work was begun laid out with a round brush and dark pigment. The oil sketch was executed and the canvas commenced in tones of yellow ochre. It had not progressed to any noticeable extent when it was laid aside as the artist prepared to return to Europe.
Upon his return to Australia he worked on it again. It underwent changes with more drawing added to the work on the railway bridge. The dimensions of the bridge struts were altered, some new ones added and others eliminated. The colour scheme underwent a complete change, the softer scheme of the earlier stage being now supersceded by a range of contrasting strong colours. The elaborate design of the lower half was sharply simplified and a more calligraphic use made of the paintbrush to indicate the pathway in the lower left and shadows under the pylons. The treatment of the trees in the upper section are now somewhat reminiscent of the work of the Vienna sezession painters particularly Gustav Klimt.
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