born New Zealand 1881; arrived Australia 1892; died 1977
Barwon River 1921–22
oil on canvas
JH McPhillimy Bequest Fund, 1966
Courtesy of the artist's estate
Charles Wheeler was a key figure of Australia’s early 20th century artistic milieu who garnered both commercial and critical success at the height of his career. A painter of portraits, nudes and landscapes, he was admired for the technical and compositional excellence deployed across his canvases. Critic James McDonald praised Wheeler’s ability to suggest the inherent qualities of his subject matter through painterly gesture, pronouncing that ‘[h]e is inevitably sure in his draughtsmanship, and it is not the draughtsmanship of line, but … of masses and forms, values and edges.’
Distinctive for its sparse distribution and layering of pastel paint representing the sandy banks of the Barwon River, this work was singled out in a 1925 Argus review for its harmonious combination of ‘delightful colour [and] rhythmic design’.