Frederick MCCUBBIN | Port of Melbourne

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

Port of Melbourne c.1909
oil on wood panel
signed F McCubbin lower left
24.5 (h) x 34.5 (w) cm
Private collection


In Port of Melbourne, McCubbin painted a view of Williamstown, looking north-east. Water was a favoured motif of the French Impressionists, for the way it allowed them to explore light and colour. It likewise appealed to McCubbin, for the opportunity it gave to capture the luminosity of the open air. In this work he particularly delighted in capturing the sun catching the tops of the clouds and glistening on the water. But McCubbin’s Williamstown paintings are also emphatically images of a working port; the moored ship here indicates that the place is a hub of commerce.

Working quickly, outdoors and in front of the motif, McCubbin sought to transcribe his sensory experience of the landscape, applying his pigments in rapid strokes, richly laden on his palette knife, and playing off warm colours against cold. Although this is a quick sketch, McCubbin gave the work a strong composition, dividing it into three horizontal areas—the nearby beach, the water, and the cloudy sky. The strokes vary in response to the different textures they convey—the flicks and dashes of the rocky beach, the horizontal strokes of the sea, and the dabs in the sky.

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