Frederick MCCUBBIN | Camel's Hump

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

Camel's Hump [Hanging Rock, Macedon] 1912
oil on canvas
signed and dated 'F McCubbin 1912' lower right
50.9 (h) x 77.0 (w) cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne purchased 1949


This is one of McCubbin’s most sublime landscapes. The elements of tall trees, a dramatic geological formation, a distant view and a radiant sky combine into a breathtaking image of the grandeur of nature. Yet, while there are no figures in the painting, man’s presence is nevertheless very much in evidence. A small fire at the bottom left sends up a plume of smoke which sweeps across to the right of the composition. (This fire is possibly for burning off after clearing the land, an activity borne out by a contemporary photograph of the same view.)

McCubbin has captured the subtle colour variations caused by the smoke haze, the sky on the right being a darker purple in contrast with the soft pinks and blues of the clear sky. To achieve these effects, McCubbin has painted over a pale chalky ground, a technique he had been experimenting with several years before, having written to Tom Roberts on 8 January 1906, ‘I have been working on a bit of canvas unprimed, but first I gave it a thick coat of white. I like it, you can get luminous quality in white grounds’ (Tom Roberts letters, ML).

The geological feature dominating the composition is Camel’s Hump, a massive volcanic rock formation rising to over 1000 metres on the northern side of the Macedon Ranges. The view is most likely from ‘Ard Choille’ (the neighbouring property to McCubbin’s ‘Fontainebleau’), looking down onto the Hesket plains towards Hanging Rock, approximately seven kilometres to the north.

This work was formerly known as ‘Hanging Rock, Macedon’ and ‘Landscape Macedon’. It has recently been retitled ‘Camel’s Hump’ because of the subject and because it is dated 1912 and McCubbin had exhibited a work of that title in that year.

Elena Taylor

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