May the Mather Inlaid Layer Remain a Major Lasting Stayer

Scottish-born Australian plein-air painter and etcher John Mather was born in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire in 1849. After studying art at the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts he migrated to Australia in 1878.  By 1880, Mather was partly responsible for the decoration of the dome of the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne. He was appointed to the board of trustees of the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria in 1892 and a founding member of the Victorian Artists’ Society, and its President from 1893-1900, 1906–08 and 1911. Mather worked as a house decorator. He was a member of the Felton Bequest Committee (1905–1916) and as trustee, strongly supported Australian art.

  • As a painter, Mather was also involved in the bohemian Artists’ Camps of Sydney. In 1912 along with Frederick McCubbin, Max Meldrum, and Walter Withers; Mather formed the breakaway Australian Art Association.
  • Three of Mather’s own paintings, Autumn in the Fitzroy Gardens,Morning – Lake Omeo and Wintry Weather – Yarra Glen were purchased by the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).
  • Mather died of diabetes at his home, Cadzow, in the inner Melburnian suburb of South Yarra on 18 February 1916 and is buried in the Cheltenham Pioneer Cemetery.

As a decorator; an example of Mather’s work can be found at the NGV within the inlay design of a cabinet made of both East Indian and West Indian satinwood, other timbers and glass. It was made in 1880 by local Melbourne manufacturer W.H Rocke & Co which was established by William Henry Rocke who arrived in Melbourne aged 16 and established an important furniture importing and manufacturing business. He participated in the inter-colonial and international exhibitions including the 1880-81 Melbourne International Exhibition for which this cabinet (featured above)  was exhibited. Constructed in the Old English style; it is one of the many revivalist styles of the Aesthetic Movement and combines elegant inlaid decorations with panels painted by John Mather. (Courtesy of NGV Bequest of Mrs. Stella Hawkes 1991).

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