Frederick MCCUBBIN | Australian scene (Williamstown)

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

Australian scene (Williamstown) 1910
oil on canvas board
signed and dated 'F McCubbin /1910' lower right
25.1 (h) x 35.4 (w) cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne gift from the Estate of Miss Beatrice Allen, 1976


Williamstown, easily accessible by road or rail, was a favoured painting site for McCubbin. He was attracted to the busy port, as well as to more quiet vistas of land, sea and sky that Williamstown offered.

A small oil sketch painted on-the-spot, Australian scene (Williamstown) is remarkable for McCubbin’s masterful handling of paint to create an image that perfectly captures the feel of a brisk sunny day at the seaside. With a deft touch, he has employed a variety of painterly techniques to great effect. He has used both brush and palette knife to apply the paint, leaving some areas thick and textured, while in others the paint has been scored with the handle of the brush or rubbed back with a cloth to reveal the canvas underneath, and create highlights. Other areas of the canvas have been left completely bare.

Australian scene (Williamstown) is most likely a view of the foreshore and boatsheds in front of the Williamstown Botanic Gardens. Early photographs of this area show several low buildings at the end of the beach in front of the Gardens, and it is possible that McCubbin’s vantage point was from a breakwater looking back towards the shore with the trees of the Gardens in the background.

McCubbin often used his watercolours and oil sketches as reference material for large oil paintings which were done later in the studio. Australian scene (Williamstown) was the source for Williamstown landscape (cat 28).

Elena Taylor

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