Frederick MCCUBBIN | Coming of spring

Frederick MCCUBBIN
Australia 1855 – 1917

Coming of spring [Richmond from South Yarra] 1912
oil on canvas
signed and dated l.r., oil "F McCubbin/ 1912"
68.8 (h) x 102.0 (w) cm
Purchased 1976
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
NGA 1976.1570


‘Full of tender qualities is The Coming of Spring,’ wrote the Age reviewer, ‘a revelation of the scintillating light of crisp early morning above the Yarra, with factories in a blue haze beyond’ (Age, 14 August 1912, p 9). And later, the Argus’s critic commented: ‘This charm of colour, which is such a characteristic feature of the artist’s work, is particularly in evidence in … “Spring”, with its strong effect of light on trees and river’ (Argus, 27 September 1921, p 9).

In Coming of spring, McCubbin demonstrated his longstanding interest in evoking the qualities of light and the atmospheric conditions particular to each season. He skilfully manipulated the surface of the painting employing luminous colours, and used layers of paint to develop the textured finish.

The view is from the grounds of ‘Como’, next to the artist’s garden, looking over the river to the industrial suburb of Richmond. McCubbin completed a number of paintings from this location, such as Autumn (Stone crusher, Richmond quarry) (cat 13), Flood waters (cat 55) and Looking towards Richmond Hill (cat 57). He delighted in the seasonal variation and the subtleties of the environment. Here, the banks of the Yarra River are covered with the new growth of the season. Looking into the distance is Richmond, and the city of Melbourne beyond.

McCubbin stated: ‘It is precisely the pictures of things familiar to us, of homely subjects … which most appeal to us and more often therefore rise to true greatness’ (‘Some remarks’, MacDonald 1916, p 84).

Beatrice Gralton

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