During the Building of Melbourne's Westgate Bridge
The West Gate Bridge is a fine example of Australian urban architecture. The painting is the earliest surviving canvas from the artist's stay in Australia. The massive engineering construction was visible from his house in South Melbourne and at the time that the painting was executed was still a year away from completion. The painting shows the bridge that Matthew Moss saw from his studio window in south Melbourne during the final stages before the final span was put in place. The construction is an object of very pleasing aesthetic nature with the sea and the landscape emphasizing its grace and form. The sinuous shape of its 2,500 meters constructed in box girder and cables in turn emphasises the beauty of Melbourne's coastal landscape. A few years previously 15 October 1970 the missing span shown in the painting had collapsed during construction falling into the Yarra river below. Thirty five workers lost their lives including a high proportion of Irish navvies employed in its construction.
The centre of the canvas shows some houses sketched in in red, with the Westgate bridge dominating the upper portions of the canvas. The town hall, in light ochre, reds and greens, with its impressive clock tower, does the same for the lower part. The buildings of Port Melbourne, then a working class district on the seafront appear below the pylons of the bridge. Their tin roofs, elaborate chimneys and cast‑iron work faÃ§ades are characteristic of late Victorian architecture in Australia. The turreted building and silhouettes, seen in front of the bridge, is the town hall of Port Melbourne. During Matthew Moss' residence the area was reminiscent of New Orleans to where a lot of the ironwork of the faÃ§ades was exported in the late nineteen sixties.
The painting is executed on a roughly woven canvas with a dark umber priming over which, a deep prussian blue has been scumbled. The outline of the bridge's structure was drawn in yellow ochre and a very flat ultramarine blue with the addition of white was used to give form to the structure and at the same time achieve a soft pastel effect.
While the background tone and the bridge itself are executed in acrylic, the red roofs of the buildings to the left are scumbled in oil. A number of the roofs in the foreground are in various tones of green which is repeated in the stylised green foliage below the incomplete bridge. The power pole in the lower left appears in the same point of the pen drawing of the subject done some weeks after the artist's arrival. Images of pylons in this canvas , created from rough hewn tree trunks are derived from drawings the artist made later in Heyfield, Victoria state.
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