Charles Conder / England/Australia 1868–1909 / Fruit trees in blossom, Algiers 1892 / Oil on canvas / 64.8 x 80.7cm / Purchased 1963 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Charles Conder
Fruit trees in blossom, Algiers 1892

Not Currently on Display

Late in 1891, Charles Conder fell ill and withdrew to the warmth of Mustapha, Algiers, in northern Africa, to recover. During this time, he made only three oil paintings; this painting is the second of the group and depicts one of his favourite subjects: spring blossoms. He once wrote to a friend that he was busy ‘trying to paint almond trees when it doesn’t rain too hard with sodden results’.1

Conder painted the motif of spring blossoms a number of times in Australia, as well as during his visits to the French countryside. He took a considerable step forward with this work, in which his use of colour is considerably bolder. Here, a soft pink and white haze of blossoms completely filling the top section of the painting contrasts with the mauve of the hills and the golden rows of seedlings in the foreground. Conder made flowering trees the theme of several works painted over the following years.


1. Ann Galbally, Charles Conder: The Last Bohemian, Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 2002, p.93.

Charles Conder was born in London in 1868. His father discouraged his interest in art and sent him to Sydney at the age of 15 to work for his uncle, an official in the Lands Department. For eight months, Conder worked in his uncle’s surveying office, and studied drawing in the evenings at the Art Society of New South Wales.

Conder’s uncle encouraged his interest in art and supported his decision to leave surveying to work as an illustrator for the Illustrated Sydney News. He soon met fellow artist Tom Roberts, and painted with him at Bondi and Coogee. Roberts invited Conder to return to Melbourne with him and, by 1888, the two artists were sharing a studio and painting with Arthur Streeton and Frederick McCubbin at the artists’ camps at Box Hill and Mentone.

In 1889, Conder moved to his own studio in Melbourne and enrolled in McCubbin’s drawing classes at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School. The following year, he returned to Europe where he studied at the Académie Julian in Paris and began painting on silk.

Discussion Questions

1. Picture yourself walking through the scene depicted in Conder’s painting and try to imagine how each of your senses would be engaged.

2. Conder was nostalgic for his younger days spent in Algiers. Consider the cultural and geographical attractions of places such as Algiers for nineteenth-century artists.

Classroom Activities

1. Imagine you are in Algiers in northern Africa. Using a postcard template, paint your location on the front, while on the back, describe the sights, sounds and aromas of this place to a close friend.

2. Conder’s ‘Algiers’ series features a lovely range of violet colours used to capture the softness of shadows. Go outside and choose a scene or a landscape to paint. Explore the relationship between light, shadow and colour. Once you have completed your painting, head indoors and reproduce the same scene using a different medium (such as oil or acrylic) and compare the two. How did your artwork change? Which version do you prefer and why?