The Bay Trail and the Heidelberg School of Australian Art

Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917) painted Tea-Tree at Beaumaris (1890) and was one of the Heidelberg School of painters with Arthur StreetonTom RobertsCharles ConderWalter Withers and others, who recorded the beauty of Port Phillip Bay.

The Mentone section of the proposed Bay Trail has become world renowned due to the recognition accorded to the painters who camped and painted on the foreshore and on the cliff tops of Mentone and Beaumaris.

The white clay cliffs of Mentone are featured in the painting Slumbering Sea (1887), which is one of the most easily identifiable beachside works of the Heidelberg School artists.  On completing this painting Roberts noted in his diary:  “We returned home during evening through groves of exquisite tea trees”.

Art-work from the MBCL booklet, Coast and Creek.

The importance of the area is noticeable because of the number of art students and art classes which regularly visit the area.  Art connoisseurs visiting Melbourne from overseas ask to be shown the area where artists worked and established an Australian style of painting, rather than copying overseas trends.

Searing comments from the leading art critic of the day prompted Roberts, Streeton and Conder to defend their art:  “I believe that it is better to give our own idea than… a repetition of what others have done before us… in a safe mediocrity which… could never help towards the development of what we believe will be a great school of painting in Australia”.

The artists’ works were eventually recognised as Australian masterpieces, and Tom Roberts, who brought together the artists to establish the Heidelberg School, earned the title of ‘The father of Australian landscape painting’.

Kingston Council as Committee of Management has a duty of care, as part of their responsibility to Australia’s heritage and culture, to protect the cliff tops for future generations.  It is surely incumbent therefore on Kingston Council to do as Bayside City Council has done by protecting and conserving what is acknowledged to be, one of Australia’s great sites of cultural and heritage value.


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