The 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition opened on 17 August 1889 at Buxton’s Art Gallery in Swanston Street, Melbourne. Tom Roberts was the chief instigator of the exhibition. He, Charles Conder and Arthur Streeton contributed the majority of the paintings, and C.D. Richardson sculpture. The opening created a stir in Melbourne. The rooms were decorated in an aesthetic style, with draperies of soft Liberty silk, Japanese umbrellas, blue and green vases filled with japonica and roses, violets and jonquils, and the air was sweet with the perfume of daphne. The artists wanted to convey momentary impressions of colour and light, fleeting atmospheric effects and the transient moods of nature.
Following Whistler’s example, most of works were displayed in simple wooden frames. The exhibition’s title referred to the size of the wooden panels themselves, which were nine by five inches (23 x 12.5 cm). Many were painted on cigar-box lids provided by Roberts’ friend Louis Abrahams, whose family imported cigars.