Perry on Shore

In this edition of Reflections Peter Perry writes about Arnold Shore’s delightful painting Farmyard, Mt Macedon, 1941, with reference to Shore’s pioneering role as a foundational Modernist. Former Director of Castlemaine Art Gallery & Historical Museum 1975–2014, Perry was pivotal in securing CAM’s strong representation of fourteen works by the artist.

Arnold Shore, Farmyard, Mt Macedon, 1941, oil on canvas. Castlemaine Art Museum. Patricia M MacFarlane Bequest 2001. Copyright Malcolm K Shore.

Perry on Shore

Arnold Shore (1897–1963) was a distinguished painter, teacher and art critic for the Argus and the Age in Victoria, and the Castlemaine Art Museum has the largest holding of artworks from all periods of his career in a public art museum.

He is now acknowledged as a fine lyrical painter, and with his friend and painting contemporary Jock Frater, Shore was a pioneer leader of the early Modernist movement in Victoria. Sadly, he and fellow Modernists have been overlooked in the past, in favour of the Angry Penguins of the 1940s. Shore’s only child, Malcolm, has augmented the permanent collection with choice works that enable CAM to fully represent Shore’s career.

Shore had exhibited this work at a solo exhibition at The Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, in June 1947 with the original title Chooks, Nandi, Victoria and priced at 20 guineas. Patricia MacFarlane bequeathed this work in 2001 knowing that Castlemaine was the closest Victorian regional gallery to Mount Macedon, a gallery she admired for its balanced collection. Shore had moved to Nandi, the Mount Macedon guesthouse, in May 1939 and spent the next eight years painting and exhibiting his works of this part of Central Victoria. In 1940, a year before Shore painted Farmyard, Mt Macedon, art critic Basil Burdett wrote that “He is one of those painters who have the capacity to make everyday things seem more vivid than most of us discover in reality … he is that rare thing, a colourist. The interest of whatever he does is enlivened by the brilliance and beauty of his colour. In his handling of colour lies the essential vitality of his work.”

Rob Haysom, Shore’s biographer, wrote “His bush landscapes demonstrate a sense of intimacy and reveal a unique perception of those environments. These works not only extend Australia’s landscape painting heritage but represent a potent and significant contribution to Australian art. His innovative approach to landscape painting has for too long been overshadowed by his predecessors, the Australian impressionists, and his immediate successors, the Angry Penguins.”

Arnold Shore, Sunny Day, Macedon 1938, oil on canvas on board. Castlemaine Art Museum. Purchased from the Estate of William McKie with support from the Finley family, 2006. Copyright Malcolm K Shore.

Another work from this period, titled Sunny Day, Macedon, 1938, was purchased from the estate of Sir William McKie with support from the Finley family in 2006.

Shore is now acknowledged by art historians to have held the first one-person exhibition with any pretension to Modernism in Melbourne in August 1929. He co-founded with George Bell, Melbourne’s first modernist art school (the Bell–Shore School) in 1932. Shore mentored John Perceval at an early age and inspired Noel Counihan to become an artist.

Peter Perry
April 2020

Peter Perry

Fine Art Valuer and Assessor based in Castlemaine, Peter Perry was Director and Secretary of the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum (as it was then known) from 1975 until 2014. His publications include R W Sturgess Watercolourist 1892–1932 (co-author Beth Sinclair) 1986; Max Meldrum & Associates, Their Art, Lives and Influences (co-author John Perry) 1996; A M E Bale Her Art and Life 2011 and Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum History & Collections (co-authors Kirsten McKay and David Golightly) 2013.

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