Australia 1855 – 1917
The cottage children (Rain and sunshine)
oil on canvas
signed and dated 'F McCubbin 1910' lower left
74.7 (h) x 49.5 (w) cm
The models for The cottage children were McCubbin’s daughter, Kathleen (in the foreground in the red dress, feeding the chickens), and Myrtle and Vera Thomas, the daughters of Mr Thomas, the gardener of the adjoining property, ‘Como’.
As with A frosty morning (cat 33), McCubbin’s depiction of this group of children has some similarities with the work of EA Hornel and the painting that McCubbin had viewed at the Royal Academy in 1907, The music of the woods 1906 (National Galleries Scotland).
Here, McCubbin depicted a scene he knew well, with the Thomas family’s cottage in the background. As McCubbin’s daughter Kathleen wrote:
We overlooked the gardener’s cottage on the Como estate, a dilapidated house which father adored to paint. For a time a gardener lived there with his wife and children but the house was so rundown and damp that they had to move away. It remained empty for a long time and I was forbidden to go near the place because sometimes unsavoury characters spent the night there—until it was burnt down.
We were at dinner when the cottage caught fire, and we went outside to view the fire from the top of the hill. One of the Misses Armytage was there, issuing instructions from a distance to her gardener and two of her maids while the poor creatures vainly attempted to put out the fire with buckets of water from an old iron tank (Mangan 1984, p 16).
A reviewer observed in 1910 that The cottage children was a typical example of McCubbin’s ‘colour at his finest’ (Age, 19 October 1910, p 12).