Elioth Gruner

Taylors Bay, 1913

Mosman Art Trail Sign 3 located at the base of the stairs that run down from the Iluka Rd culdesac.

Listen to an audio recording, read by Claudia Karvan, to learn more about this artwork. 

One of Australia’s finest landscape painters, early Modernist artist Elioth Gruner, devoted himself to painting the coastline of New South Wales during two distinct periods, between 1912-1914 and then again in 1917-1920. These periods of focussed out-door painting are testament to the artist’s tireless physical interaction with the landscape, spending summers on the beaches of Sydney, bodysurfing and camping with friends.1 In comparison to Gruner’s bright panel paintings of Bronte, Bondi and Manly from this same period, full of people and movement, his subdued, tonal painting of Taylors Bay is almost entirely uninhabited. The view instead delights in the softly glowing languid atmosphere of low tide on a hot afternoon.

Following the influence of Australian Impressionism set out by his peers of an earlier generation in artists camps just a couple of bays over, Gruner’s Taylors Bay is depicted with an elongated horizontal format, emphasising an even balance between the bay’s inlet and the jutting wooded promontory of Booraghee (Bradley’s Head). Gruner returned to this popular painting location several times, creating paintings here in 1913 and then again in 1919, including Blue and Gold (National Gallery of Victoria)  and Dreamy Morning, Sydney Harbour (Private collection). Of these paintings Taylors Bay is the only one painted at sea-level, closely cropped to frame the immediate and intimate surrounds of the cove; his larger, squarer, pictures made use of a high vantage point to show the grey smokey city beyond the headland. The uninterrupted view of Taylors Bay is painted with broad and intuitive brushstrokes, alternating simple square touches of unblended colour with wispy pale accents delicately placed atop broad areas of uniform colour. Gruner’s treatment of water is atmospheric, with glossy surface stripes of blue and green providing the reflection of the headland in the shallow silty waters of the bay, over which circle brilliant white gulls, hoping to catch a fish.

Then, as now, Bradleys Head was a pristine, untouched natural reserve. The scrubby heath of acacia and banksia on the neighbouring shore is painted in Taylors Bay with gestural streaks of muddy browns and shadows of lilac. While the First Nations inhabitants of the Borogegal clan and their rich indigenous heritage on Bradleys Head were decimated by the arrival of European settlers, the natural landscape was largely preserved with the creation of naval and military site.2 In 1908, five years before Gruner painted Taylors Bay, the southern end of Bradleys Head was proclaimed Ashton Park, a protected natural reserve. 3

The sheltered and bountiful waters of Taylors Bay, like the neighbouring Sirius Cove, were an enticing milieu for campers and fishers in the early years of the 20th century as they had been for local indigenous people for many generations. Although in Gruner’s painting there is no evidence of built structures, in the centre of Taylors Bay a trail of conspicuous grey smoke points to an encampment on the eastern edge of Bradleys Head. Here two small figures blend almost imperceptibly into the rocky landscape, while their boats idle in the shallows. 

1 Pearce, B., Elioth Gruner 1882 - 1939, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1983, p. 14 
2 Aboriginal Heritage of Mosman, State of NSW and Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW, 2010, p. 1
3 Historic Guide to Bradley’s Head, Mosman Historical Society, November  2005

Text by Lucie Reeves-Smith.

Rodney R. Dangar, Sydney, by at least 1940 
Auction Sale of Pictures from the Collection of Mr and Mrs Rodney Dangar in aid of the Lady Gowrie Red Cross Home, James R. Lawson Auctioneers, Sydney, 9 April 1942, lot 3 (as 'Taylor Bay, Sydney Harbour') 
Private collection 
Australian and European Paintings, Spink Auctions, Sydney, 8 October 1980, lot 108 (as 'Mosman Bay', illus.) 
Private collection
Fine Australian Traditional Paintings, William S. Ellenden, Sydney, 27 August 1981, lot 24, (as ‘Mosman Bay’, illus.)
Mr Hugh Bonython, Adelaide, 1983
Gordon Marsh Gallery, Sydney, January 1984
Private collection, Sydney, purchased from the above
Sotheby’s, Sydney, 7 May 2007, lot 51 (as ‘Taylors Bay’) 
Balnaves Collection, Sydney 
Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney, a gift from the above 2011 

Elioth Gruner Memorial Loan Exhibition, National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 April - 31 May 1940, cat. 56 ( incorrectly dated 1919); and touring to National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 5 July - 4 August 1940, cat. 45 (as 'Taylor Bay, Sydney Harbour') 
Elioth Gruner 1882-1939, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 July - 4 September 1983, cat. 7 (label on the reverse)
A Very Private Collection, S. H. Ervin Museum and Art Gallery, Sydney, 15 June - 15 July 1990, cat. 20 

Batchen, G., 'Gruner in Retrospect', Art Network, Network Publications, Sydney,  no. 11, Spring 1983, p. 11 (illus.) 
Pearce, B., Elioth Gruner 1882 - 1939, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1983, cat. 7, p. 33 (as ‘Taylors Bay’) 

Photo credit Jacquie Manning

Additional Specifications

(1882 - 1939) 
oil on wood panel 
16.5 x 63.0 cm 
signed and dated lower right: E. GRÜNER / 1913 
inscribed with artist’s name, date and title on artist’s label verso