Frederick MCCUBBIN | The blue Mediterranean

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

The blue Mediterranean [Seascape] 1907
oil on canvas-textured board
signed and dated 'F McCubbin/ 1907' lower left
17.5 (h) x 25.5 (w) cm
Private collection


McCubbin made his only trip abroad in 1907, when he visited Britain and Europe on six months’ full-paid leave of absence from his position as drawing master at the National Gallery of Victoria’s art school. He departed for England on 21 May, aboard the Prinz Heinrich, arriving in England on 3 July. During the voyage he made a number of oil sketches of places he visited, such as Colombo, Aden, Naples and Genoa. He left England on 6 October and returned to Melbourne on the Bremen on 18 November 1907.

In this lively oil sketch, McCubbin depicted the drama of the sea by using a broad-edged brush to capture the movement of the waves. He handled his paint expressively and captured the sense of the continual change and ever-varying aspect of the surface of the ocean. He conveyed a sense of a limitless expanse, going on into the distance, with the expanse of sea interrupted only by the distant horizon, and the horizontal strip of the sky above.

In a letter to his wife, written off Aden on 16 June 1907, McCubbin wrote: ‘Tell Louis [their son] you can’t paint on ship board’ (Mackenzie 1990, p 250), and on 21 June 1907 wrote: ‘I made one slight sketch off Aden, but have not done anything since’ (ibid, p 251).

This work was included in the exhibition of paintings by the late Frederick McCubbin, at the Victorian Artists’ Society’s Galleries in September-October 1921, where a reviewer described it as a ‘beautiful little note’ (Argus, 27 September 1921, p 9).

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