Frederick MCCUBBIN | Study in blue and gold (Figure on a hillside in a summer landscape)

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

Study in blue and gold (Figure on a hillside in a summer landscape) [Figure on a hillside in a summer landscape] 1907
oil on canvas
signed and dated 'F McCubbin/ 1907' lower right
29.0 (h) x 59.0 (w) cm
Private collection, courtesy Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne


This landscape shows trees which have been killed for clearing, with the characteristic white of death by ringbarking. The tall bare skeletal trees crossing the hillside show the extent to which the landscape has been impacted upon.

McCubbin nonetheless created poetry out of the scarred landscape, with the hill rolling down to the undulating plain beyond, and the mountains pressing in behind. He used a palette of greens, pinks, and blues, enlivened by the patch of red on the figure on the right. He depicted the scene in the late afternoon, with shadows creeping over the hills and on the hollows in the ground.

This work is most likely to be the one titled ‘Blue and gold’, exhibited in McCubbin’s May 1907 exhibition. A reviewer noted that in that exhibition the works ‘in which Mr McCubbin’s best qualities appear’ included Study in blue and gold, and that: ‘In all of these the closest scrutiny of nature is observed, and, added to honest craftsmanship, are freedom from artifice or trick, sentiment of perception and intuition’ (Argus, 17 May 1907, p 9).

In 1907 McCubbin also painted a portrait of Eileen Watkins (just before she became Mrs Isidore Kozminsky) which was likewise entitled ‘Blue and gold’—but the work referred to in the review as being ‘a close scrutiny of nature’ would appear to be a landscape rather than this portrait. McCubbin frequently used the same or similar titles for different works, and this would appear to be the case in this instance.

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