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French Impressionist - Australian Rupert Bunny

Updated on March 21, 2014
The Last fine days
The Last fine days

An Australian in Paris

Rupert Charles Wulsten Bunny was an Impressionist artist, born in St Kilda, near Melbourne, 1864, his father was a local Judge and his mother played and taught piano. His childhood was one of gatherings around the piano, concerts and theatre but when he expressed an interest in entering the arts his parents we non too supportive. So Rupert Bunny left for England in 1884 and soon enrolled in P.H. Caleron's Art School in London. After two years study, he moved to Paris and was tutored under the watchful eye of Jean Paul Laurens a French Impressionist of some renown.

It didn't take long for this talent Australian to make his mark and he was soon exhibiting his work in the Salon, Paris, Royal Academy in London and also Pittsburg in America. His early works showed definite influence from his master, having a definite Pre-Raphaelite, Impressionistic feel. These paintings were allegorical interpretations of Classical Mythologies and Religious tracts, dramatic and full of emotion.


Impressionism before the War

In 1902 he married fellow art student Jeanne Morel, who also appears as a model in a number of his pieces. This period was a decadent time, la belle epoque and his work reflected the extravagance of the age. His friends included Rodin, the Singer Nellie (Peach) Melba, Debussy and Gwen John, all were active in Paris at this time and Bunny captured their lifestyle perfectly.

His paintings featured elegant ladies in long dresses, lace shawls, big hats. He paints their delicate long flowing satin and silk gowns with such a gentle touch, highlighting the jewels and flowers that decorate and trim. His figures, often posed in dark, dim corners offer us brief glances to the world within. Titles such as the bathers, chatting in the park, moonlight senata and nocturne all depict the self absorbed life of privileged women at that time.

Dance 1920
Dance 1920
St Paul's Chapel 1923
St Paul's Chapel 1923

After World War One

After all the war changed everything, Bunny felt that his painterly style before was not fit for the new age, he said he disliked painting women after the war in their short skirts and never returned to the subject matter again. Instead he drew inspiration from the Fauvists and Japanesian artworks. His themes were once more classical or landscapes but this time in bold, free brush strokes, exciting brash colours. The influence of Cezanne and Gauguin are all to evident in these paintings. He seemed just as much at home exploring the medium as he did the subject and once more became very adapt at his new style of working.

He would travel south in the winter to Provence for the warmer climes and now returned to Australia more often to paint. In 1933 when Jeanne died, he finally returned permanently to Melbourne where he continued to paint but not as enthusiastically. Bunny towards the end of his life concentrated more on music, performing and writing several ballads. In 1946 a retrospective of his life's work was arranged in Victoria, a first for any living Australian artist, he sadly died the following year. His work remains as a collection of excitingly differing styles, a rich,eclectic body of work, showing us an age of innocence long since gone, blissfully unaware of the horrors that awaited.

Other Artists on this Hub

Welsh Female Impressionist - Gwen John

Renaissance Women Painters 1400-1650

Renaissance Artist - Sonfonisba Anguissola

Baraque Artist - Artemisia Gentileschi

Rococo Portrait Painter - Rosalba Carriera

Italian Expressionist - Amedeo Modigliani

Surrealist - Joseph Cornell

Dadaist - Hannah Hoch


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    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 8 years ago from UK

      I hadn't heard of Bunny before. It's interesting the way he kept re-inventing himself. The variations in his style over time are quite amazing. Thanks for posting this. It's always good to learn about new artists.

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 8 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you for writing about these artists. Sad to say I didn't know them before. Thanks to your hub, now I know more wonderful artists. I love their works!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      This is a very interesting hub and well written. The paintings a fantastic. I am glad you brought this great artist to our attention. Thank you.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Yoiu caught the flavor of this artist's life and environment before WW1, almost as well as the artist did on canvas. Great hub, thank you!