Frederick MCCUBBIN | Williamstown

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

Williamstown c.1909
16.8 (h) x 24.5 (w) cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide gift of TC Lothian, 1962


This watercolour is a vivid impression of light and water, rapidly executed with broadly painted brushstrokes in an iridescent palette of blue, red and yellow—a sparkling Turnerian evocation of light and its effects. As Ann Galbally has suggested, ‘colour and form melt into one another’ (Galbally 1981, p 135).

McCubbin greatly admired Turner’s Venetian watercolours, which he had seen on his European trip two years earlier in 1907. The brilliance and luminosity of these late works especially appealed to McCubbin:

they are mostly unfinished but they are divine—such dreams of colour—a dozen of them are like pearls … They glow with a tender brilliancy that radiates from these canvasses—how he loved the dazzling brilliancy of morning or evening—these gems with their opal colour—you feel how he gloried in these tender visions of light and air (Mackenzie 1990, p 259).

Williamstown is one of a series of works McCubbin painted of the south-west shore of Hobson’s Bay, about eight kilometres south-west of Melbourne’s city-centre. It is a study for the much larger oil painting, The old slip, Williamstown (cat 69) and was donated to the Art Gallery of South Australia in 1962 by Thomas C Lothian of the Lothian Book Publishing Company.

Rebecca Andrews

Tickets available online now | open 14 August – 1 November 2009