Australia 1855 – 1917
Oliver's Hill, Frankston (Summer idyll)
oil on canvas
signed and dated 'F McCubbin/ 1910' lower right
91.0 (h) x 152.8 (w) cm
Kerry Stokes collection, Perth purchased 1989
McCubbin depicted the bushland at Oliver’s Hill looking out from a high vantage point. He conveyed the trees and surrounding grasses through a medley of small loose touches and strokes, building up a rich texture which suggests a visual and tactile equivalent of the bush. Light floods through a break in the trees with their overarching boughs. Beyond this, the curve of the bay and the sparkling blue of the sea glow like a promised land in the distance.
Oliver’s Hill is located in Frankston, south of Melbourne. It is the first major rise in terrain along the eastern coastline of Port Phillip Bay, between Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula. It was named after a local fisherman, James Oliver, who built the first cottage on the hill in the mid 1800s, where he kept watch for fish. It subsequently became a holiday retreat. McCubbin would have painted this landscape during a painting trip to the southern beaches.
McCubbin first exhibited Oliver’s Hill, Frankston at the Victorian Artists’ Society exhibition in 1910, as ‘Summer Idyll’. It was a landscape with nymphs sitting under the trees and frolicking on the hillside, with these figures perhaps intended to suggest a natural innocence and a neo-pagan empathy with nature. He later painted out these nymphs however, turning the image into a ‘pure’ landscape. He may have done so following the criticism he received from the Argus critic, who commented that ‘The beauty of Mr. McCubbin’s fine landscape, “A Summer Idyll” [is] not enhanced by the nude figures, which strike a discordant note in the modern spirit of the scene’ (Argus, 19 October 1910, p 15). The Age reviewer, however, was more supportive, commenting that ‘Mr F. McCubbin’s Summer Idyll, a landscape with dancing nymphs, has many of the recognised qualities of his best work’ (Age, 19 October 1910, p 12).