Frederick MCCUBBIN | The rainbow (Rainbow over Burnley)

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

The rainbow (Rainbow over Burnley) [Burnley Quarry] c.1910
oil on wood panel
sight 25.0 (h) x 35.5 (w) cm
McClelland Gallery + Sculpture Park, Langwarrin gift of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, 1989


The rainbow (Rainbow over Burnley) was painted whilst McCubbin resided at his South Yarra property, ‘Carlesberg’. Once a cattle-run, the approximately three-acre (1.2 hectare) property afforded expansive and undisrupted views of the Yarra River, including the Burnley quarry, Richmond and the city of Melbourne.

The rainbow is one of a series of small studies that explores the location and subject of the Burnley quarry. The quarry, a measure of a city in progress, supplied the bluestone for the roads of the emergent suburb of Richmond. The subject matter of the industrial landscape appealed to McCubbin, as a complement to his naturalist ideals, and he subsequently painted the quarry, and in particular the architecture of the stone crusher, from various locations (see cats 13, 45, 55 and 56). This view, looking back over the Burnley quarry toward South Yarra, was painted from the suburb of Richmond.

Alluding to notions of both the metaphysical and physical, The rainbow illustrates the splendour of nature and the workings of everyday life—a rainbow arches over the industrialised landscape, and the sky awash in a glow of pink and lavender signals the passing of a storm, capturing a moment of stillness and calm rather than the dramatic and sensational. The simplistic architecture of the stone crusher links this romantic imagery and the reality of the industrial suburban location.

The painted surface is complex in treatment. The atmospheric afterglow and depth of colour is achieved by various layers of low-relief impasto and oil wash surfaces, applied by a combination of palette knife and paintbrushes to culminate in the luminous intensity of the stormy sky and contoured lines of the Burnley landscape.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, a great admirer of McCubbin’s work, acquired this painting after the Sedon Gallery’s Exhibition of paintings by the late Fred McCubbin in August 1949, in which it was described as ‘Stormy sky over the old stone crusher, Burnley Quarries’. In 1989, Dame Elisabeth gifted The rainbow to the McClelland Gallery.

Penny Teale

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