Lawson Balfour (1870-1966)
The Blue Lagoon 1920
oil on canvas
31.5 x 40.6 cm
Gift of Howard Hinton 1935
Born 1870, Melbourne. Died 1966, Woy Woy.
(James) Lawson Balfour was born in Melbourne, but was aged two when his family returned to their native Scotland. He grew up in an artistic and musical environment and after his school years he embarked on a career as an artist, studying first in England and later in Paris. He achieved early success as a painter of horses, dogs and babies. He was noted for subtlety of colour and decorative treatment of the figure in open air and became popular as a portrait artist.
Balfour lived for a time in Ireland then New Zealand. Along with Roland Wakelin and James Muir Auld, Balfour was one of the first artists to discover the Dee Why area of Sydney as a sketching ground, and settled there in the 1910s. At that time it was largely bushland, and the environment suited post-impressionist style plein air painting.
The Blue Lagoon features two female figures lying in the sun on a grassy slope. The atmosphere is one of sleepy sunshine. The overall golden tone is broken by the blue of the water. The women’s loose clothing is heavily creased and deeply shadowed in the hot sun. This work was exhibited at the Royal Art Society in 1920. Hinton noted in the papers accompanying his donation, that “This artist's works are scarce –I was lucky to get this one.”