Clarice Beckett - "Atmosphere"

Recently, I was privileged to go to a wonderful art exhibition at the Geelong Art Gallery with my fellow blog writer, Jane. It was a unique collection of the paintings of Clarice Beckett (1887 – 1935).

Blog writer Caroline wrote about Clarice in June 2019, and I encourage you to revisit her post before reading on about this latest exhibition – click here.

Clarice Beckett as a young woman. Credit: Public Domain.

Clarice’s main artistic aim was to depict atmospheric effects and phenomena. She said in the catalogue of an exhibition in 1924: “To give a sincere and truthful representation of a portion of the beauty of Nature, and to show the charm of light and shade, which I try to give forth in correct tones so as to give as nearly as possible an exact illusion of reality.” 1 Appropriately, the Geelong Gallery have called this exhibition Atmosphere.

Clarice was much maligned for this focus, with critics calling her work 'fog bound' and uninspiring. However, today we know that she was actually ahead of her time as a tonal artist, leading into modernism and almost abstraction, particularly in her Nocturne series of evening landscapes.

She painted in various places around Victoria – in Melbourne city, close to her home in Sandringham and Beaumaris, and further afield in the farm areas of the Western district of Victoria and along the Surf Coast south of Geelong.

Map of Victoria, Australia, showing The Western District, the Barwon coast area and Melbourne, all the areas in which Clarice Beckett painted her landscapes. Credit: ABS

She was a prolific painter, focussing on the effects of hazy sunsets, reflections on wet streets, silver mists, telegraph poles, shimmering lights and indistinct figures.

Here are some examples from the exhibition:

Sadly, much of her work has been destroyed – some 2,000 paintings were left to the weather in an open sided shed in the Western district, and her father destroyed about 1,000 of her paintings that he thought were “unfinished.” Can you believe it! …… Such a shame......

So it is a real privilege to see this exhibition – the first in almost 25 years – which groups together 67 of her works from galleries around Australia and private collections. Coincidentally, it is almost 100 years since her first solo exhibition at The Atheneum in Melbourne, in 1923!

I hope you enjoy the following 2.48 minute slideshow of photos I took at the exhibition. You might like to also take note of the frames of the paintings – some so very old and ornate, others more modern looking, but I think suit each particular work very well…. What do you think?

My photos don’t do the paintings justice, and I can’t seem to take a straight photo to save myself! So if you get the chance, it is really worth coming to Geelong to see this wonderful exhibition for yourself…..

A slideshow of some of the Clarice Beckett paintings at the "Atmosphere" exhibition in Geelong, Victoria, April 2023 by Julie. Music: Chopin Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 9 no. 2. Contributing artist Vadim Chaimovich.


  1. With thanks to the Geelong Art Gallery.