Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Frederick McCubbin

A Bush Burial, 1890, Frederick McCubbin
There's a common misconception that all really great, all really outstanding artists must suffer to attain greatness. Some, such as van Gogh, Monet, Gauguin, Modigliani, and a surprisingly few others have, indeed, had a part in contributing to what I've come to call the "starving artist syndrome." However, that's not the norm. That's not to say that a great many artists, in their early years, haven't let a "hand-to-mouth" existence, some of them even fostering a romantic illusion of extreme privation. But in most cases, if they're any good at all, such periods of deprivation are usually quite short, seldom lasting more than a few years. The Australian landscape painter, Frederick McCubbin is a typical case in point.

McCubbin was one of Australia's most highly respected artists.
McCubbin was born in Melbourne, Australia, the third of five children in the family of a baker named Alexander and his wife, Anne McCubbin in 1855. After graduating from the Australian equivalent of high school, he worked as a solicitor's clerk and a coach painter. He also worked in the family business while attending art classes at the National Gallery of Victoria's School of Design starting around 1876. He sold his first painting in 1880. Thus, though obliged to work outside the realm of a professional artist, neither McCubbin, nor his family, were ever destitute.
By the early 1880s, McCubbin's gained consid-erable stature when he won a number of prizes from the National Gallery, including a first prize in 1883 in their annual student exhibition. By the mid-1880s McCubbin let go of his duties in managing the family business to concentrated more on painting the Australian bush. It is for these works that he became notable. Also in 1883, McCubbin received first prize for best studies in color and drawing.
Old Politician, 1879,
Frederick McCubbin
Down on His Luck, 1889, Frederick McCubbin
By 1888, McCubbin had become instructor and master of the School of Design at the National Gallery. In this position he taught a number of students who themselves became prominent Australian artists, including Charles Conder and Arthur Streeton. McCubbin was around twenty-four years of age when he painted Down on his Luck (above). At the time he was still enrolled as a graduate student in the National Gallery of Victoria School of Painting, under Eugene von Guerard. Von Guerard had a strong influence on the impressionable McCubbin which is evident in these early student works such as Bush Burial (top), dating from 1890.
Frederick McCubbin's, Fountainebleau
Rain and Sunshine,
1910, Frederick McCubbin
Frederick McCubbin married Annie Moriarty in 1889. Together they had seven children. One of their sons, Louis McCubbin, later became an artist and director of the Art Gallery of South Australia. A grandson, Charles, also became an artist. In 1901 McCubbin and his family moved to Mount Macedon. With them they brought a pre-fabricated English style home which they erected on the northern slopes of the mountain which they named Fontainebleau(above). It was in this forest setting, that McCubbin painted his beloved trip-tych, The Pioneer (below), in 1904, along with Rain and Sunshine (right), from 1910, and many other works. The house survived the Ash Wedne-sday fires and stands today as a testament to the artist. It was at Macedon that he was inspired by the surrounding bush to experiment with the light and its effects on color in nature.
The Pioneer, 1904, Frederick McCubbin
During the 1890s McCubbin began creating large-scale pioneering history paintings culminating in On the Wallaby Track (below) in 1896. The title derives from a colloquial term referring to those who lived constantly on the move, camping by the roadside as they travelled in search of work during an economic depression. McCubbin painted close to his home in Brighton, Victoria, using his family members as models. This monumental work represents a tribute to the rural laborers enduring poverty and hardship as the true pioneers of settlement. Even as it embraces a nationalist message in its Australian subject matter, On the Wallaby Track adopts the academic naturalism of French plein-air painters and the new focus on everyday subjects by French painters such as Corot and Millet.

On the Wallaby Track, 1896, Frederick McCubbin
McCubbin was president of the Victorian Artists’ Society from 1893 until 1896. From then on he held several solo exhibitions in Melbourne before travelling to France and England in 1907. There he encountered the paintings of J.M.W. Turner at the Tate Gallery and was captivated by their visions of light and air, an influence manifested in the higher key and looser handling of the paintings such as The Princess Bridge (below) made after his return to Australia.

Princes Bridge, 1908, Frederick McCubbin.
In his final years, McCubbin’s painting developed more intimate scale as evidenced in Interior (below) ca. 1910, which contrast sharply with his earlier, more ambitious paintings. The work depicts his four-year-old daughter, Kathleen, "plunking away" at an old piano. With its looser gestural brushwork animating the surface of the painting with inflections of light and color, the work showcases McCubbin at the peak of his late style.

Interior, ca. 1911, Frederick McCubbin
One of McCubbin's last works before he died of a heart attack in 1917 was a remarkable work in which is portrayed a landscape, which bears a slight resemblance to Arthur Streeton's work Golden Summer, Eaglemont, from 1889, although at this stage of McCubbin's life, it is more likely to be a South Yarra landscape. It was produced on a sized gum leaf (bottom), for sale on Remembrance Day, Friday, December 17, 1915, to help raise funds for the returning servicemen and women. McCubbin also painted scenes on fan shaped pieces of cardboard. McCubbin's works sold for ten shillings (about one dollar), while many other artists taking part sold their works for as little as six pence (five cents).

Gum Leaf (South Yarra Landscape),
1915, Frederick McCubbin


No comments:

Post a Comment