Frederick MCCUBBIN | Autumn (Stone crusher, Richmond Quarry)

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

Autumn (Stone crusher, Richmond Quarry) [Stone crusher, Richmond Quarry] 1908
oil on canvas mounted on plywood
signed and dated 'F McCubbin 1908' lower right
50.5 (h) x 75.8 (w) cm
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart purchased with funds from the Robb Bequest, 1975


McCubbin wrote to Tom Roberts in the new year of 1908:

and we have moved as you see—This is the loveliest place I have ever lived in ... The night effects; sunrise, moonrise, we can see every way. The old Dandenongs in the distance—and … the back of Burnley is most picturesque … (Tom Roberts letters, ML).

This work is an early version of a view to which McCubbin returned repeatedly over his life. Indeed, his daughter Kathleen observed that it was one of his favourite subjects. ‘He loved that old stone crusher, and it was so accessible to paint—looking across from our hill’ (Kathleen Mangan, quoted in Mackenzie 1990, p 170).

This view is bathed in a mellow, golden light which makes it warmer than McCubbin’s other versions, and suggests that it was painted at the close of day. McCubbin painted it from a vantage point slightly closer to the edge of the hill than in his other interpretations, and framed by trees on either side. He depicted the scene so that the stone crusher resembles a cathedral with a tall spire, ennobling the local industry, setting it against a bucolic image of cows peacefully grazing in the foreground. Nonetheless, the murky dust cloud over the quarry suggests it is a source of pollution. The sky and the hazy mid-distance have a Turneresque quality.

The painting may have been exhibited in the Victorian Artists’ Society annual exhibition 1908, possibly as ‘Autumn’ or ‘Richmond Quarry Holes’. A reviewer of this exhibition noted his use of ‘Australian subjects, showing how even the quarries of Richmond will lend themselves to pictorial effect under the brush of a sympathetic artist’ (Age, 17 July 1908, p 6).

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