Moyston's 'Land of Grandeur'

Moyston - A painting by a Moyston artist will take pride of place at a special event held at the historic Yarram Park to honour the life of artist Sir Arthur Streeton.

Grant Thomas was given permission by the owners of Yarram Park (near Willaura), Antony and Sybil Baillieu, to stand in the place where Arthur Streeton stood to paint the iconic Australian masterpiece, 'Land of the Golden Fleece' and photograph the magnificent Mount William scenery, following which he painted his own version of the landscape.

Since his arrival to this area in 1991 Mr Thomas has become a well established local artist whose panoramic oil paintings often depict the grandeur of the Grampians. Even his smaller works capture the essence of the land by providing viewers with a glimpse of the rugged mountainous heights, distinctive colours, expanse and the breathtaking beauty of the Grampians National Park.

Mr Thomas's connection with the Baillieus extends back to the 1990s and involves another, albeit little known, icon of Australia; Christina MacPherson, who wrote the original music to Banjo Paterson's Waltzing Matilda.

Mr Thomas spent time with Diana Baillieu - mother of former Premier of Victoria Ted - at her home in Toorak in the mid 1990s. Mrs Baillieu was the grand niece of Christina MacPherson.

"My reason for the visit was as a result of my passion to learn more about the amazing events which led to the creation of the poem," Mr Thomas said.

"Diana was so forthcoming with information and she also gave me photographs she had of Christina MacPherson depicting her as a young girl and later as a woman."

Mr Thomas had already painted his version of the three troopers and the swagman at the billabong, so armed with the photos given to him he painted a portrait of Christina MacPherson also in 1995, titling the work 'The Composer'.

The painting remained in storage until this year, when Mr Thomas exhibited it publicly at a theatre production of the play 'The Man they call the Banjo', performed live at the historic bluestone Edgarley Woolshed at Willaura in October.

The artwork and the photographs were displayed in the woolshed and the price of $50,000 on 'The Composer' painting raised eyebrows and added interest to the night.

"I was approached by one bloke who politely said to me 'No disrespect mate but I think you have put the decimal point in the wrong place'. I looked at him with a grin and I was tempted to say to him 'Do you think it's too close to the five?' Mr Thomas joked.

It was Mr Thomas's attendance at this event that lead to his version of 'The Land of the Golden Fleece'.

While at the performance of 'The Man they call the Banjo', Mr Thomas was introduced to the owners of Yarram Park, Antony and Sybil Baillieu and was invited to the 'Picnic Tea' event at Yarram Park, which is being held this Saturday.

Gareth Colliton, curator of the Warrnambool Art Gallery, will be guest and will speak on the life and times of Sir Arthur Ernest Streeton who visited Yarram Park in December 1926.

"So, on the day before this year's Melbourne Cup, I drove to Yarram Park where Sybil gave me permission to photograph the magnificent Mount William scenery, from where Streeton himself had stood," Mr Thomas said.

"I raced back to my studio at Moyston and painted my own panoramic version in oil on canvas."

Mr Thomas has titled his painting 'Land of Grandeur'.

While Mr Thomas spent much of his life as a police officer, including in Ararat, his love has always been art.

His father was born in 1926 (coincidently the year Streeton painted his three original versions of the famous painting), and once said to the young Grant that, 'If you want to do art for a living, you'll never have two bob to rub together'.

"Funny, I also gave the same advice to my 33 year old son when he embarked on a career as a local tattoo artist at his shop 'Artworx' in Ararat," he said.

"He has been following my progress with my painting of the 'Land of Grandeur' and he went and bought two bob and gave them to me for this painting. A 1926 shilling to commemorate the year Streeton painted the 'Land of the Golden Fleece' and a 1955 shilling, my birth year, depicting a ram's head - golden fleece."

The 'Picnic Tea' at Yarram Park this Saturday is a fund raiser for a mural which will be painted inside St Peter's Church in Glenthompson.

Guests will gather on the lawn for a picnic at the location where Streeton stood when he painted the now famous Australian iconic images.

"So, just as my painting in 1995 of Christina Rutherford MacPherson (which won't fetch $50,000 in my lifetime!) came out of the dark to be shown at the Edgarley event, this new painting the 'Land of Granduer' will hopefully also add interest to this upcoming event," Mr Thomas said.

"We are so lucky to have this magnificent country right here in our own back yard."

Tickets for the 'Picnic Tea' at Yarram Park can be booked through Lavinia Cuming 03 5577 8287.

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