Prominent Sydney artist Peter Sharp is well known for his large abstract works of the Australian landscape. But what is less well known are the paintings he based his larger works on.

Manly Art Gallery & Museum (MAG&M), in a new exhibition Peter Sharp: Accidental Tourist (25 June to 1 August), is pleased to present 40 of Sharp’s en plein air paintings (created outdoors) over the past 30 years, especially selected from his practice. 

These quick studies painted on boards reflect the artist’s travels around regional and remote Australia and have become part of his ‘toolkit’ for larger abstract works.

Mayor Michael Regan said the paintings capture the essence of the landscapes which Sharp portrays in his large abstract works.

“With subject locations in this exhibition as diverse as Fowlers Gap Broken Hill, Dog Fence near Tibooburra, Darling River Western NSW, Bay of Fires Tasmania, Royal National Park and Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Sharp homes in on what gives these places their unique character.”

Peter Sharp, said in an artist statement for the exhibition, that his en plein air paintings have presented him with a ‘dilemma’.

“The dilemma for me is where this body of work fits into my current practice? My main practice for over 30 years has been about looking at the Australian landscape and abstracting it, starting with drawings of the subject and ending with constructed, abstracted painting and sculpture. Sometimes the work doesn’t even end up looking ‘like’ the subject.

"I was always a fan of the Australian Impressionists so after art school I taught myself how to paint outside directly from the subject. I even had an exhibition of en plein air paintings in 1994 at Coventry Gallery, Sydney. 

"The reaction was interesting as some people loved the new direction I was taking while other painters thought I was digressing from the bigger picture of abstract problem solving.

"I’ve continued to make these outdoor works for over thirty years for my own engagement and enjoyment without the intention of ever showing them. Until this show!

"I continue to create them as demonstrations when I take students out to far western NSW for an annual Fine Arts Field Trip with the Faculty of Art and Design, UNSW."

After some thought about his lesser-known paintings on exhibition, Sharp considers them an "asset" not a "dilemma".

"I hope this conversation is relevant to all artists who enjoy the immediacy and challenge of plein air painting.”

With many of the paintings in the exhibition, a photograph of the subject area will be positioned alongside the painting, so the viewer can see how Peter Sharp uses his unique artistic licence to observe the landscape. 


Exhibition Opening Event

Saturday 26 June 2021, 4 - 6pm

To be opened by Anne Ryan, Curator, Australian Art, Art Gallery of NSW

Plein Air Painting Workshop

Monday 5 July, 10am – 2pm

In this outdoor half-day workshop, Peter Sharp demonstrates and shares insights how to create a painting on site, using either acrylic or oil paint, and gives some practical techniques and creative and technical ‘hacks’ gleaned over years of making paintings in the landscape.

Cost: $60, BYO materials and refreshments

Bookings essential via

Artist in Conversation 

Sunday 11 July, 2 - 3pm Join Peter Sharp ‘in conversation’ with fellow artist and friend Idris Murphy.

Numbers limited. Please RSVP here