Conder was born in Tottenham, Middlesex, but emigrated to Australia at the age of 18, where he was to become associated with the Heidelberg School, arguably the beginning of a distinctly Australian school of western art. He was known as a bon viveur, and many of his paintings have a relaxed elegance about them, focusing on people enjoying themselves in the open air, often under the light of the bright Australian sun. He left Australia for Europe in 1890, visiting Paris (where Toulouse Lautrec painted his portrait – now hanging in the National Gallery of Australia) but living mostly in England, where his skill as a lithographer was particularly praised – both Pisarro and Degas rated him highly. The three works in this exhibition are illustrations for La Fille aux yeux d’or (‘The Girl with the golden eyes’), a novella by Honore Balzac about a decadent heir who plots to seduce a beautiful young girl. Valdes. He succeeds, but when he discovers she has another lover, he plans to murder her, only to find she has already died at the hands of another lover. The lithographs were published as part of ‘The Balzac Set’ in 1899 by Carfax & Co, London. Conder died of syphilis in Holloway Sanatorium.
John Rothenstein, The Life and Death of Conder, Dent, n.d.