Gustave Barnes, who was born in London, came to Australia as a child. After early training with his father, who was a skilled designer and modeller, Barnes completed his studies at the Royal College of Art, London. Barnes was Curator of the Art Gallery of South Australia from 1918-1921, and is also represented in the Gallery's collection.
Barnes gained early recognition as a talented artist, and worked as a designer, modeller, etcher and especially landscape painter in oils and watercolours. Barnes depicted nature as he observed it, without any embellishments. A settled rural countryside was his forte, not the primaeval wilderness of Hans Heysen (q.v.) nor the romanticism of Arthur Streeton (q. v.).
With his friend Hans Heysen (q.v.), Barnes often wandered through the Adelaide Hills, searching for subjects to paint.
MOUNT BARKER LANDSCAPE, undated, is typical of the scenes which the two artist friends would have seen in their rambles. With remarkable accuracy of observation, Barnes captures the brightly-lit rolling, farming countryside of the Mount Barker area. Rounded hills show the dry grass of an Australian golden summer. Dappled shadow and light add a gentle touch to this tranquil scene, where sheep graze in contentment. Warm rays of sunshine, not the blazing noon-day heat, colour the upper slopes, and all is at peace in this sound and sincere Australian Pastoral. The piquant contrast between the "old vision" of the ancient landscape and the "new fact" of the introduced sheep contributes to this satisfying work.