Frederick MCCUBBIN | At the mouth of the river, Williamstown

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

At the mouth of the river, Williamstown c.1909
oil on canvas-textured board
signed 'F McCubbin' lower left
24.5 (h) x 33.5 (w) cm
Private collection


From his youth, living in the city near the Yarra River and its wharfs, McCubbin had an interest in ships and shipping, and the tall-masted vessels. He painted many views of Melbourne’s docks and the bridges over the Yarra. These works include Falls Bridge, Melbourne 1882 (NGV), as well as the panoramic Melbourne in 1888 (NGV), showing the redevelopment of the port of Melbourne. In London in 1907, he depicted the Thames and its shipping in such paintings as The Pool of London (cat 6).

In this view of Williamstown, McCubbin depicted one of the long piers with water either side; in the background are the ships which made this a busy harbour. At the mouth of the river, Williamstown was probably painted in the Greenwich Bay area, looking towards Port Melbourne.

McCubbin applied his paint to create a variety of textures, using thinner dabs of paint in the sky to give it an airy quality, and thicker impasto on the foreground water to give the sense of small frothy waves gently beating against the pier. He again used thin paint, allowing the textures of the canvas board to show through, to create the solid walls of the pier.

McCubbin gave this painting to the Melbourne architect Harold Desbrowe Annear, who was a friend of many artists, such as Arthur Streeton, George W Lambert, Daryl Lindsay and Napier Waller and counted among his clients some of the city’s wealthiest families—the Baillieus, Grimwades and Murdochs.

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