Frederick MCCUBBIN | A spring pastoral

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

A spring pastoral [The coming of Spring] c.1908
oil on canvas
signed 'F McCubbin' lower right
34.2 (h) x 49.4 (w) cm
Bendigo Art Gallery gift of Dr Joseph Brown under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme, 1995


A spring pastoral is an example of McCubbin’s passion for subtle atmospheric changes and various light effects. The subject is neither grand nor imposing: two trees in the scrubby foreground, with an obscured dwelling to the right and distant mountains provide the informal attraction of this work. McCubbin often gained pleasure from everyday scenes that are commonly taken for granted. He does not convey the complete details of the scene, but rather an intuitive feeling for the landscape. The viewer’s eye is drawn to the central tree, and McCubbin’s dedicated treatment of the bark and leaves in brightly textured colours ranging from purple, red and ochre to pure white, depicting perhaps the effects of midday sunlight. The lighter tones to the right of the scene poetically suggest the coming of spring as it sweeps across the landscape.

The work is undated, but was probably painted in 1908 at South Yarra. The work presents all of the hallmarks of McCubbin’s later work produced after his return from Europe, including a broader application of paint and a higher-keyed, brighter palette. McCubbin has rubbed back and scratched into the paint surface in some areas to produce a more subtle, softer effect, then built up the paint surface with numerous layers of quick brushstrokes in other areas of the painting. The work shows McCubbin’s style in transition, moving toward his final period of painterly brilliance.

This painting was formerly known as ‘The coming of spring’, but has recently been retitled ‘A spring pastoral’ on the basis that a work of that title was exhibited in the Victorian Artists’ Society exhibition of July 1909.

Tracy Cooper-Lavery

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