Frederick MCCUBBIN | Roadmaking

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

Roadmaking [Making the road] 1907
oil on canvas
signed and dated 'F McCubbin/ 1907' lower right
30.3 (h) x 50.8 (w) cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne purchased with the assistance of a special grant from the Government of Victoria, 1979


This view of road builders is one of a number of images of the city and of workers that McCubbin painted, and which reflect his interest in depicting contemporary life. He placed the road on a diagonal to the picture plane, leading into the composition. The viewpoint is only just above the street, and the horizon line is low. McCubbin rapidly applied his colours in small patches, using a light touch, and gave a unity to the overall scene through the textures of his paint.

McCubbin’s concern here was principally with the city. As Patrick McCaughey has observed:

McCubbin adds significance to the subject by associating the urban motif with scenes of work and in relating the city to the landscape … He picks out the factory chimneys on the horizon line and lets the whole untidy, non-picturesque business of road-making occupy the bottom part of his painting. Yet, as so often in late McCubbin, he draws a poetry even from this raw scene, discovering pinks, blues and violets in the clay, and uniting the road-makers and road, city and landscape in the broken powdery textures of his paint (McCaughey 1979, p 62).

Roadmaking shows the construction of Alexandra Avenue, beside the Yarra River near McCubbin’s home, which at this time was at Shipley Street, South Yarra. It was one of the 61 paintings that McCubbin exhibited in May 1907 before he travelled to Europe and which included work produced over the last 10 years.

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