Rupert Bunny. Last Fine Days, Royan (Summer time, Royan)
One of the most successful expatriate artists of his generation, Rupert Bunny as no other Australian artist achieved the critical acclaim in Paris.
An erudite painter of ideal themes, and the creator of the most ambitious Salon paintings produced by an Australian, Bunny is an exotic in the history of Australian art.
Rupert Bunny, Endormies
As a serious musician, fluent in French and German, and one of seven children of a prosperous Melbourne family, Bunny left Australia in 1884, accompanying his father, Victorian Judge Brice Bunny to Carlsbad. After brief study in London, he settled permanently in Paris. Whilst he joined Melbourne colleagues such as Bertram Mackennal and Charles Conder as expatriates in Europe, Bunny lived outside the characteristic experience of an Australian in Paris: he associated closely with American and French artists, he married a French woman, (the artist and model Jeanne Morel) and he remained in France for five decades. He returned to Australia permanently in 1933, nearly 70, recently widowed and in financial difficulty, and spent the remaining years of his life in Melbourne in genteel poverty, painting and pursuing his love of music.
Rupert Bunny. Dolce Farniente, c.1897 (Sweet Idleness)
Bunny worked consciously to align his art to the great masters and traditions of European painting. The Italian primitives, Venetian colourists, British Pre-Raphaelites, and tonalists Manet and Velàzquez captivated him. But he also wished to be a modern painter, and established masters of his own time, from Whistler and John Singer Sargent to Gauguin, Bonnard and Matisse also had great impact.
Rupert Bunny. Beautiful Afternoon in Royan
During his decades in Paris, Bunny accumulated a string of successes: he was the first Australian to gain honourable mention at the Paris Salon in 1890, gained a bronze medal at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, held a string of solo shows, and exhibited throughout Europe. Bunny was patronised by the French state which had, by the end of his career acquired no less than 13 of his works for the Musée de Luxembourg and regional collections – a first for any Australian artist. His art was acquired by Hungary’s Museum of Fine Arts and National Museum, by the Wilstach Collection in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and by collectors across Britain, Hungary, the US, Chile, Argentina and Russia. When Scottish millionaire George McCulloch exhibited his collection at the Royal Academy in 1909, Bunny’s Summer dance c.1894 was the only Australian painting shown amongst major works by Whistler, Millais and others.