There’s no snubbin’ a good oil paintin’ by Frederick McCubbin

Above: The Wallaby Track (1897) oil on canvas Art Gallery of New South Wales

Frederick McCubbin  was born in West Melbourne, the third of eight children on 25 February 1855. He was a prominent artist from the Heidelberg School, one of the most important historical artistic movements in Australia. He studied art at the National Gallery of Victoria’s School of Design, where he met Tom Roberts and studied under Eugene von Guerard. He also studied at the Victorian Academy of the Arts where he exhibited in 1876 and again from 1879-1882, selling his first painting in 1880.

  • In 1888, he became instructor and master of the School of Design at the National Gallery. In this position he taught a number of students who themselves became prominent Australian artists, including Charles Conder and Arthur Streeton. Featured right: Bush Idyll (detail) oil on canvas.

McCubbin married Annie Moriarty in March 1889. They had seven children, of whom their son Louis also became an artist.

  • (Featured above: Autumn Memories (1899) oil on canvas. The Joseph Brown Collection, NGV Foundation). This is one of his most lyrical and romantic images. It shows his fascination for placing female figures in the open landscape. Annie McCubbin (his wife) became a poetic motif for the transience of nature and the warm, afternoon autumnal light dissipates and fades becoming, as the title suggests, an evocative memory.

He won a number of prizes from the National Gallery, including a first prize in 1883 in their annual student exhibition. By the mid-1880s he concentrated more on painting the Australian bush, the works for which he became famous.

In 1901 McCubbin and his family moved to Mount Macedon, transporting a prefabricated English style home up onto the northern slopes of the mountain which they named Fontainebleau. It was in this beautiful setting that he painted The Pioneers amongst many other works and this is the only place that McCubbin ever painted fairies.

  • The Pioneers (1901) oil on canvas triptych can be viewed at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (Felton Bequest). This is one of the last of McCubbin’s large compositions and the most characteristic of this middle period of his development.

Part of McCubbin’s legacy is intertwined with that of fellow Australian artists Tom Roberts and Louis Abrahams who founded the first artist’s camp at Box Hill in the eastern outstretch of Melbourne which laid the foundations of what later became “The Heidelberg School“.

  • In 1912 he became the founding member of the Australian Art Association.
  • Frederick McCubbin died on 20 December 1917, at South Yarra from a heart attack.

Sources: Gleeson, James. Australian Painters | McCulloch, Alan. “Encyclopedia of Australian Art”

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