Frederick MCCUBBIN | The Pool of London

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

The Pool of London 1907
oil on wood panel
signed and dated 'F McCubbin' lower left
25.0 (h) x 35.8 (w) cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne purchased with the assistance of a special grant from the Government of Victoria, 1979


It is tempting to speculate that this work was painted after McCubbin’s brief visit to Paris in early August 1907, where he admired the works of the Impressionists Monet, Manet and Sisley in the Musée du Luxembourg. Certainly, in the high-key colour and watery subject matter of The Pool of London, McCubbin comes closest to the work of Monet than at any other time.

Painted en plein air in one sitting, the great expanse of sky and water dominate the work, and McCubbin’s long ship voyage from Australia to England must have sharpened his perception of these phenomena. We know that he undertook a few quick sketches en route, including The blue Mediterranean (cat 5), although he wrote that it was impossible to paint on board. Water had never before featured so prominently in his work, nor had he ever painted it so convincingly. In The Pool of London McCubbin depicts the sparkling, reflective, appearance of light on water, using horizontal dashes of contrasting colour in a manner very similar to Monet’s treatment of the same subject. However, the light-filled clouds and hazy sky recall Turner’s paintings.

Coincidentally, in 1870–71 the young Monet, accompanied by Pissarro, visited London—where they admired Turner’s late works on display in the National Gallery. Monet also painted several views of the Thames, including The Pool of London 1871 (Cardiff) and Boats on the Thames, London 1871 (private collection).

Elena Taylor

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