Q&A: Streeton Prints

Clockwise from top:
Arthur Streeton, San Marco, Venice, edition of 50, 25.5(h) x 35.5(w)cm. Medium: Zinc etching on Somerset
Posthumous print by: Theo Mantalvanos
Interior view: Streeton Prints artist in residence, Joel Wolter talking to QG&W visitors about his printmaking techniques and the Streeton influence in his work.
Arthur Streeton, Magpie, edition of 50, 25.5(h) x 35.5(w)cm
Medium: Zinc etching on Somerset
Posthumous print by: Theo Mantalvanos

Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop is now showing Streeton Prints, an exhibition of never previously published etchings by Sir Arthur Streeton posthumously printed by Theo Mantalvanos at QG&W. Soula and Theo Mantalvanos explain.

 

How did this exhibition come to fruition?

After successfully restoring 11 of 12 plates and realising we would be able to edition Sir Arthur’s prints, the artist’s grandson William Streeton asked if there was any way the opportunity could transform into something more for QG&W. William was impressed with our dedication to print and arts education and wanted to offer even more support. He asked if we could give him a wish list to which we responded with three wishes: Can we publicise the story, could we host an exhibition to share the precious prints and restorative process with the public, and could we also manage the sales. 
 
Print and arts education has become a huge focus for both of us since opening QG&W just over a year ago. We always wanted to run workshops but were surprised at how thirsty the general public was for art information. And the ‘how to’ and ‘process’ of art isn’t only intriguing, but we realise it leads to patronage (or art addiction!). People realise the value of what they’re looking at, in fact most times after we’ve explained the handmade print process we hear, ‘why isn’t it worth more?’.
 
Streeton Prints presents the perfect opportunity to ‘educate’ and there are various aspects we could present.
  • First, the history: the straightforward restoration and editioning process
  • Second, the Streeton story: presenting the unseen works by one of Australia’s much-loved artists and learning more about Sir Arthur (and how much work he did on his honeymoon!)
  • Third, the legacy: the value of a significant artist, ie how they continue to feed artists and in the various ways in which they do this decades, even centuries, later.

Why were these etchings never previously published?
The answer to that would have to be: We will never really know. We hope this extraordinary event will uncover some more information by encouraging anyone with related information to come forward but for now all we know is that there are very few proofs – two of which are part of the exhibition thanks to the Streeton family. It could be possible that there wasn’t a need to publish them, that the demand wasn’t there. Or we can assume that Sir Arthur simply preferred painting or that his paintings sold well enough for him not to pursue printmaking.
 
Why is Arthur Streeton not better known for his prints?
Given the prints were held back from the public eye and painting became Sir Arthur’s preferred medium, and that he established himself as an impeccable painter, it makes complete sense he is predominately known for his painting. But this is what’s so incredible about this uncovered treasure, we will now know Sir Arthur for his prints. We’ll also know his son as the man who desperately needed a piece of copper and decided Sir Arthur’s copperplate of Doge’s Palace, Venice could do without one corner!
 
How are you demonstrating Streeton’s influence on contemporary artists?
We put a call out to our represented artists and asked them to respond if they felt they were inspired in some way by Sir Arthur. Nine artists will demonstrate their inspiration by partaking in a residency at QG&W during the exhibition. They have access to the centre of the gallery for six days each to work, exhibit and/or make prints or paintings on our smaller press while talking to visitors. The artists are Joel Wolter, Philip Davey, Emmy Mavroidis, Adam Nudelman, Amanda Firenze, Michelle Joy Caithness, Soula Mantalvanos, Andrew Weatherill and James Pasakos.
The salon wall will include works that have been specifically made for the exhibition or are influenced in some way by Sir Arthur by Danielle Creenaune, Andrew Gunnell, Bronwyn Rees,Stephen Tester, John Waller, and Deborah Williams. For example, Deborah Williams tackles the subject of the artists’ dog, Andrew Gunnell has always referenced Sir Arthur’s colour palette in his work, Danielle Creenaune ‘follows familiar footsteps of Streeton’s southern highlands sojourns’. In some works it’s very obvious how the artist has been influenced, in others we need to further explain. 
 
We believe the discovered etchings, the way in which we have presented the restoration process and plates as well as the contemporary works by QG&W artists will provide a great experience and education to our visitors. The plates, their proofs and prints may never come together again and we have a chance to see more work by Sir Arthur Streeton. A great honour for QG&W and especially for Theo who editioned the prints, handling Sir Arthur’s plates for hours, days, months. 
Streeton Prints is at QG&W, 81 Hesse Street Queenscliff, until 30 April.