Charles Conder

Charles Edward Conder was a British landscape artist who played a key role in establishing the Australian Impressionist movement in modern art during the late 1880s. Born in Tottenham, London in 1868, Conder was the third of six children. At two years old, he and his family moved to India for his father’s civil engineering position as a railroad engineer. At six, Conder’s mother passed away and he was sent to live in London to attend school. After nearly a decade of schooling, he dropped out with the intent to study art, but with an extremely unsupportive father, he was then shipped off to work as an apprentice with his uncle in New South Wales, Australia as a land surveyor. During this position, he completed many landscape sketches while surveying and after two years he left to take a position at Gibbs, Shallard & Co. in Sydney as a lithograph apprentice. He began illustrating weekly drawings for the Illustrated Sydney News and taking classes at the Art Society of New South Wales under the tutelage of Alfred Daplyn (1844-1926), a landscape plein-air artist. He continued on to meet many influential colleagues that directly affected his artistic style.

In the fall of 1888, he settled in Melbourne and shared a studio with Tom Roberts (1856-1931) whose influence helped him to create his masterful depiction of color and light. Conder left for ten years to travel to Paris where he visited London, Normandy and Dieppe, to name a few. Here he created many optimistic beach, nautical and garden scenes, capturing the natural landscapes in his watercolors and oils while also including a touch of wistful romanticism. From 1895 until his death in 1909, Conder began experimenting with lithography as well as fan designing using watercolors on silk which brought him a great deal of fame. He married Stella Maris Belford in 1900 and due to a severe psychosis, a direct result of a case of syphilis, Conder was confined to a sanatorium seven years later. He passed away in 1909 and was buried in Virginia Water, Surrey. He was considered one of Australia’s best landscape painters in the late 1880s and as recognition of his contribution, the Canberra suburb of Conder was named after him.