Australia 1855 – 1917
oil on canvas board
signed 'F McCubbin' lower right
25.4 (h) x 30.5 (w) cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne purchased 1947
In 1915, at the age of 60, McCubbin purchased an old Renault, and became, according to Daniel Thomas, ‘a modern motorised McCubbin’. The car was used for painting excursions into the city, and McCubbin began a new series of works of this most modern of subjects. He delighted in capturing the flickering light, and the almost dissolving, abstract forms of the city’s activity. As his daughter, Kathleen, remembered:
We parked near the top end of Collins Street, facing the city. The latish afternoon sun was shining brilliantly on the tops of the buildings and this was the ideal subject for one of father’s swift sketches. Hastily taking out his palette from the box he always carried in the car, he squeezed out blobs of paint and swiftly blended the colours together with his palette knife. Within moments the sky and the illuminated facades of the building began to take shape on the sketching board (Mangan 1984, p 50).
Painted in an unusually high-key to capture the bright afternoon light on the north-facing buildings, the surface of the work is encrusted with small, jewel like dabs of paint. Other areas are painted thinly, or rubbed back. McCubbin has also scraped into the paint with the handle of the brush to create highlights. The scene is highly abstracted, the people on the street mere vertical notations of paint, the facades of the buildings appearing to dissolve into pure colour and pattern, recalling Monet’s series of paintings of the facade of Rouen cathedral.