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National Gallery of Australia announces acquisition of a Fredrick McCubbin painting

 

The Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Ron Radford AM, announces the significant new acquisition of Frederick McCubbin’s Violet and gold, 1911.

Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917) is one of Australia’s greatest artists whose art has a wide national appeal. Dated 1911, Violet and gold comes from McCubbin’s later period of painting and depicts cattle watering at a pool surrounded by tall trees in Macedon, Victoria.

The purchase of this significant Australian painting has been made possible by generous donations of the Hon Mrs Ashley Dawson-Damer, and John Wylie AO and Myriam Wylie. Mrs Dawson-Damer is a board member of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation.

“We are immensely grateful to the Hon Ashley Dawson-Damer, John Wylie AO and Myriam Wylie for their generous contribution towards the purchase of this painting,” said Ron Radford, Director of the National Gallery of Australia.

Mr Radford wrote in the 2001 Federation Landscape Exhibition Catalogue, McCubbins’s Violet and gold as being “One of McCubbin’s most beautiful Macedon paintings, with rays of dappled light flickering through the dark trees animating the surface of the painting with flecks of colour. Here there is no narrative, only poetry”.

Violet and gold was painted at the time when McCubbin is considered to have created some of his most engaging and intimate, impressionist views of the bush. In 1907 he made his only trip to Europe, and was away for around five months. The experience had a profound impact on his work, particularly his exposure to the art of JMW Turner. As a result his style became freer. He began to depict subjects such as the port and city, the port, the city using pure broken colour applied with a palette knife.

Now hanging in the Federation Gallery of Australian art, Violet and gold will also feature in a major NGA McCubbin exhibition in 2010.

 

Frederick McCubbin
Violet and gold 1911

Oil on canvas 87.0 x 144.5 cm

Dated 1911, Violet and gold comes from McCubbin’s late period. An image of cattle watering at a pool surrounded by tall trees, it is a brilliant light-filled work. The National Gallery of Australia’s Director, Ron Radford, wrote of it in 2001 as being ‘one of McCubbin’s most beautiful Macedon paintings, with rays of dappled light flickering through the dark trees animating the surface of the painting with flecks of colour. Here there is no narrative, only poetry. McCubbin’s free handling of paint and his layering of pure colours is dazzling. The way he captured the flickering light through the trees and across the ground is miraculous’.

McCubbin gave this painting a poetic, Whistlerian, title - possibly a result of having looked at and admired Whistler’s work in London in 1907. The title may possibly have come from a line in a poem by the American poet, Stephen Crane: ‘In little songs of carmine, violet, green and gold, A chorus of colours came over the water’.

Violet and gold was painted about one kilometre below McCubbin’s country house Fontainebleau at Mt Macedon. McCubbin found this area inspirational, and he painted many images there which capture his interest in atmospheric effects. They derive from his deep knowledge and love of the place and lived experience. Violet and gold is one of the most painterly and evocative of these works – full of pastoral charm and end of day ease.

McCubbin’s late works include some of his most engaging and intimate, impressionist views of the bush. In 1907 he made his only trip to Europe, and was away for around five months. The experience had a profound effect on his work, particularly the exposure to the art of J.M.W. Turner. As a result his style became freer. He began to depict subjects such as the bush, the port, the city and interiors with pure broken colour applied with a palette knife. He became more and more interested in the varying effects of light –flickering light, hazed light, dazzling light. ‘They glow with a tender brilliance’ (as McCubbin was to describe the work of Turner). The shimmering, dazzling light in Violet and gold shows how much McCubbin learnt from Turner. It has a flickering, rich painterly surface – which reflects the subtle harmonies of the Australian bush.

Dr Anna Gray, Senior Curator, National Gallery of Australia

 

For further information please contact:

Alison Wright
Telephone: (02) 6240 6643
Mobile: 0412 395 809
Email: alison.wright@nga.gov.au

Jenny Blake
Telephone: (02) 6240 6700
Mobile: 0408 611 014
Email: jenny.blake@nga.gov.au