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National Gallery of Australia Sheds New Light on Iconic Australian Painter
Frederick McCubbin The Letter, c. 1884] oil on canvas, 69.1 x 51.0 cm. Collection: Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.

CANBERRA.- The National Gallery of Australia has opened its latest exhibition showcasing the late works of one of Australia’s most renowned artists and foremost impressionists, Frederick McCubbin.

McCubbin: Last Impressions 1907–17 is a fresh look at McCubbin’s late work. It concentrates on the last 11 years of his life when he produced his most vibrant works, ones which express his sense of delight in, and comfort within, the Australian landscape.

The first comprehensive McCubbin exhibition in 18 years, and the first to focus on his later works, McCubbin: Last Impressions features 76 works from all the major galleries in Australia, including several from the National Gallery of Australia’s collection, and 25 rarely publicly displayed works from private collections.

‘It has been far too long since works by Frederick McCubbin were exhibited. I’m sure many people will be looking forward to becoming reacquainted with some favourites from this iconic Australian artist and also being introduced to the innovative works from his later years,’ said Ron Radford, Director of the National Gallery of Australia.

‘It is truly in his last impressions—in the way he captured a radiant light and atmosphere, the serenity of early summer or the glow of afternoon light—that McCubbin made a major contribution,’ said Ron Radford.

McCubbin: Last Impressions surveys a range of joyous paintings covering landscapes, seascapes, views of docks and industry, city life, portraits and interiors. It includes some of Australia’s greatest works of the Federation period—such as Violet and gold 1911 (National Gallery of Australia), Golden sunlight 1914 (Castlemaine Art Gallery & Historical Museum), Collins Street c1915 (Geelong Gallery) and The old slip, Williamstown 1915 (private collection)—as well as a number of McCubbin’s intimate sketches.

For well over a century, Frederick McCubbin has been one of Australia’s best-loved artists. Born in Melbourne in 1855, he was the city’s first major painter, and together with other iconic Australian impressionists Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Charles Conder, was a leader in the visual arts in the 1880s and 90s.

In 1907, his work changed radically after he viewed the works of Turner, Constable and Monet on a trip to Europe. McCubbin’s subjects became more modern, he painted with brighter colours and his paint handling techniques were more experimental and adventurous—especially in his use of a palette knife.

’McCubbin: Last Impressions 1907–17 shows the artist’s skill in capturing the energy in the Australian landscape and the vigour of the city. It was in these later years that McCubbin realised that in his earlier work he had been too timid in what he painted, and in how he painted. He turned to new subjects, such as images of female nudity, scenes of public streets and of factories, trains, trams and cars,’ said Anna Gray, exhibition curator and Head of Australian Art at the National Gallery of Australia.

‘Through this he expressed his intense passion for the places he loved and knew well, and showed that Australia—land, sea and city—was a place charged with life,’ said Anna Gray.

McCubbin: Last Impressions 1907–17 is on show at the National Gallery of Australia from 14 August until 1 November 2009.

National Gallery of Australia | Frederick McCubbin | Castlemaine Art Gallery & Historical Museum | Geelong Gallery |

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