Sydney Long (1871-1955) Painter and etcher. From about 1890 he studied under A. J. Daplyn and Julian Ashton at the Art Society of New South Wales school where he first exhibited and was awarded second prize in the life class and in painting, and the president’s prize. Next year his first major painting, ‘By Tranquil Waters’, an Impressionist study of boys bathing at Cook’s River, was purchased by the National Art Gallery of New South Wales. Becoming a full-time painter, Long supplemented his income by teaching private pupils.
By the early 1900’s Long was trying to save to undertake further study in England. From 1907 he was Ashton’s second-in-command in the new Sydney Art School. He finally managed to leave Australia in 1910, reaching London in October. Although Long claimed to have married in 1911, he did not actually marry Catherine Brennan, a dancer, until 1 December 1924, at Lambeth. In 1911 he enrolled at an art school at Kennington and soon associated himself with the more conservative tendencies in British art. He visited France, Belgium and Holland in 1912, but remained firmly Anglocentric. One of the continuing problems of Long’s London years was his lack of financial security. He had arranged for the Sydney dealer Adolph Albers to sell works on consignment. During World War I transport of these works became irregular as did payment, and he was often impoverished.
Long achieved minor success in England, exhibiting intermittently with the Royal Academy of Arts from 1913 to 1929, but failed to obtain the recognition which he felt he deserved, especially compared with George Lambert. In 1918 Long began to learn etching at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, Holborn. His quality of line and tone had a natural affinity with the medium and he rapidly became an accomplished etcher. In 1920 he was elected an associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers and was foundation honorary secretary of the Society of Graphic Art.
In 1921 Long returned to Australia for eighteen months, held successful exhibitions in Sydney and was a founding member of the Australian Painter-Etchers’ Society (later president). In 1925 he returned with his wife to settle at Lane Cove, with a caravan at Narrabeen and a studio in George Street. His pupil Donald Friend remembered him as ‘a very odd man indeed: envious, jealous, professionally and emotionally very timid: no close friends, only cronies. He yearned after the young, but discouraged actual friendliness. He was a debunker and “a knocker”. Very lonely I think’.
From 1912 he had been sending works to the Royal Art Society and on his return continued to favour it and taught at its school. He was a trustee of the Art Gallery in 1933-49 and strongly opposed the foundation of the Australian Academy of Art.
Long remained one of Australia’s leading etchers until the collapse of the etching boom in the mid-1930’s, when he turned again to painting. In 1938 and 1941 he won the Wynne prize for landscape painting. In 1952 Long and his wife left for London where he died on 23 January 1955 and was buried in Streatham cemetery.
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