Autumn Evening


Emanuel Phillips Fox
Oil on canvas
74cm x 112cm
Copyright Whitehorse City Council
Gifted by J.S. Gawler on his retirement from Council in 1952

Twenty-five years after the Whitehorse Art Collection was founded in 1927, a retiring Councillor, J.S. Gawler, donated two significant works by Emanuel Phillips Fox to the fledgling collection. Autumn Evening, 1899, and The harvest field, 1905, are representative of a sizable body of historic artworks within the Whitehorse Art Collection. 

Emanuel Phillips Fox (1865 –1915) was the son of Alexander Fox, noted panoramic photographer (1830 – c.1870). The young Fox attended the National Gallery Victoria School from 1881-1886, winning the student prize for landscape there in 1885. He also studied, not unusually for an artist of his time, in France – at the Académie Julian and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1887. He exhibited widely in Europe, including a show at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1890, before returning to Melbourne. He established the Melbourne Art School with Tudor St George Tucker (1862 – 1906) in 1893.    

Fox was a painter of note in Melbourne at the turn of the twentieth century. He was much admired by the arts establishment for his work abroad. The trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria commissioned the artist to paint The Landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay between1900-1901. The work was created in London, as per the terms of the Gillbee bequest. Working in England, brought Fox into contact with the artist Ethel Carrick (1872–1952), whom he married in 1905. The two artists settled in France, and travelled widely throughout Europe. Fox also travelled to Tahiti in 1914, in the footsteps of the great artist Gaugin.  

Fox was associated with a number of artists that painted in the Box Hill area in the late nineteenth century – artists such as Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin, Louis Abrahams and Arthur Streeton. These artists, subsequently, became known as the ‘Heidelberg School’ when some of them moved to the Heidelberg area, from their camp at Box Hill, in 1889-1890. Fox is considered to be part of this group, now called the Australian Impressionists, by countless art historians. In the 1890s, Fox took a lease on a property in Heidelberg where he painted a series of autumn paintings, including Autumn Evening.      

Autumn Evening is representative of the en plein air movement, painted as it is ‘in the open’, which was a strong European influence on Australian painters in the late nineteenth century. Here, with evening fast approaching the artist has captured the ever-changing light on autumn foliage as cows make their way home to shelter.     

Autumn Evening is occasionally exhibited in major exhibitions of historic works within the Whitehorse Art Collection. In 2011, Autumn Evening was exhibited in the Queensland Art Gallery, as part of Art, Love & Life: Ethel Carrick and E Phillips Fox. Autumn Evening was displayed in 2013 Unveiled: Art from the Manningham, Maroondah and Whitehorse Council Collections at Manningham Art Gallery, MC2. Autumn Evening will feature in Autumn Salon starting 3 March 2015.

Further Reading

Clabburn, A. ‘Catching the light’ in The City of Whitehorse Art Collection, City of Whitehorse, Nunawading, Victoria, 2003

Clark, J. and Whitelaw, B. Golden Summers: Heidelberg and Beyond, International Cultural Corporation of Australia Limited: Melbourne, 1985

Eagle, M. The Oil Paintings of E. Phillips Fox in the National Gallery of Australia, NGV, 1997

Feeney, K. ‘A Partnership in love and life’, The Brisbane Times, 12 April, 2011

McCulloch, A & McCulloch, S. The Encyclopedia of Australian Art, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW, 1994

Sanders, E. ‘Evolution of a collection’ in The City of Whitehorse Art Collection, City of Whitehorse, Nunawading, Victoria, 2003

Artwork in Focus updated by J Nichols-Reeves, Senior Arts Officer (Curator), 2013, Whitehorse Artspace, Box Hill Town Hall, 1022 Whitehorse Rd, Box Hill, Whitehorse City Council, (03) 9262 6250