Arthur Streeton began his formal training in art when he enrolled in drawing classes at the National Gallery School of Design, Melbourne, in 1882. In the late 1880s, Streeton was one of a small group of painters who established an artists' camp at semi-rural Heidelberg - the beginnings of the movement that later came to be known as the 'Heidelberg School'.
Working en plein air - painting out of doors, directly from nature, rather than relying on sketches in the studio - Streeton and his companions focused on capturing the true light and character of the Australian landscape. As with many of the artist's Sydney Harbour panels, Manly Beach, 1895, is a spontaneous study of a sun-drenched stretch of Australian coastline. The composition's elevated vantage point allows an expanse of cliffs, beach and water to be included in the view.
Streeton initially applied a warm base layer, over which he blocked in the main features of the landscape, a method of working that served to heighten the richness of the colours added in subsequent layers. His deft, direct brushstrokes summarize forms, leaving the composition open and seemingly transparent, shimmering in light.