Frederick MCCUBBIN | Flinders Street railway station

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

Flinders Street railway station c.1915
oil on canvas-textured board
signed 'F McCubbin' lower right
25.5 (h) x 35.5 (w) cm
Private collection


In this work McCubbin used rapid, often sketch-like strokes of the brush and palette knife to convey his subject. Painted towards the end of the day, he captured the strong forms of the buildings silhouetted against the sky. Although the conception is quite different, the subject-matter may have been suggested to McCubbin by Monet’s views of the interior of the Gare St-Lazare, with their station architecture, and sensations of light, steam and motion.

McCubbin took a lively interest in the city and urban scenes, and in his late works he became a painter of contemporary life. The railway station and the steam train were symbols of the modern world, but McCubbin’s interest here was as much with colour, light and atmosphere as it would have been if he were painting a landscape.

McCubbin depicted the dome of Flinders Street railway station to the left, and in the foreground the station and its busy steam trains. Located on the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets, Flinders Street station was completed in 1910 and has been central to Melbourne’s social and cultural identity ever since.

As McCubbin’s daughter, Kathleen, observed, her father:

loved certain parts of Flinders Street, especially the old station. He loved that and the railway yards. There is a beautiful one of his of the railway yards in the late evening when the lights were just going on. Most of these works were done late in his life—about 1916, not long before he died (Kathleen Mangan, quoted in Mackenzie 1990, p 206).

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