Gruner was born in 1882 in New Zealand, his family migrating to Sydney the following year. As a child he showed precocious drawing skills and his mother took him, aged twelve, to meet Julian Ashton (1851-1942) at the Art Society of New South Wales. He studied under Ashton whenever the time allowed, as at this early age it fell upon Gruner to support his family as a draper’s assistant at Farmer’s emporium, where he met Jack Lecky, a fellow employee, and commenced a lifelong relationship.
Gruner exhibited his first work in 1901 and from 1908 he began to receive laudatory press notices, by 1913 his career began to move quickly.
Gruner was the greatest plein air painter of his generation, creating landscapes that remain instantly recognizable. By 1912 Gruner was receiving recognition for his coastal views, but the modest Fading Light indicates how he could take an unprepossessing scene and transform it into a minor masterpiece of mood. Leafless, decaying gum trees dominate a desolate landscape, over which surges an oppressively cloudy sky; the melancholy enhanced by monochromatic colours and weighted brushstrokes. The small scale, the tone, the seeming artlessness of the composition, all indicate the personal, intimate nature of this painting. As the inscription ‘To my friend R. D. Elliott Esq.’ indicates, the painting was a gift, acknowledging kindnesses received, as Elliott was certainly one of the artist’s most dedicated early supporters.
Elioth Gruner (1882-1939)
Fading Light, 1912
Oil on board inscribed lower left: To my friend R. D. Elliott Esq signed and dated: E. Gruner 1912
36 x 24 cm 99/14