Tom Roberts met Charles Conder in Sydney in 1888, and the two painted together at Coogee beach. These painting expeditions proved influential on the younger Conder. Later that year he followed Roberts to Melbourne to join him and Arthur Streeton at their artists’ camp at Heidelberg.
While Conder painted Coogee Bay with an emphasis on the decorative qualities of colour and form, Roberts’ 'Holiday sketch at Coogee' suggests his primary concern for the landscape’s natural effects. It is an early testament to Roberts’ plein-air ‘impressionist’ technique, which evokes the sun’s glare on the bright blue sea, bleached white sand, dry grass and spindly seaside vegetation.