Frederick McCubbin - Paintings Collection (Australia)

Down on His Luck, 1889
Down on His Luck, 1889

Frederick McCubbin (25 Feb 1855 - 20 Dec 1917) was an Australian artist, art teacher and considered one of the prominent figures of the Heidelberg School art movement, described as "Australian impressionism" which sought to capture Australian life, the bush, and the harsh sunlight that typifies the country.

Frederick McCubbin Self-portrait, 1886
Frederick McCubbin Self-portrait, 1886

McCubbin's paintings by and large focused at the Australian landscape and regular life, frequently depicting scenes from rural regions and pioneer groups.

Violet and Gold, 1911 by Frederick McCubbin
Violet and Gold, 1911

Concerned with capturing the national life of Australia, McCubbin produced a number of large landscapes that reflect the melancholic themes then popular in literary accounts of European settlers' interactions with the bush. Several of these works have become icons of Australian art, including Down on His Luck (1889), On the Wallaby Track (1896) and The Pioneer (1904).

The Pioneer, 1904 by Frederick McCubbin
The Pioneer, 1904

McCubbin studied at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School under a number of artists, notably Eugene von Guerard and later George Folingsby. One of his former classmates, Tom Roberts, returned from art training in Europe in 1885, and that summer they established the Box Hill artists' camp, where they were joined by Arthur Streeton and Charles Conder.

On the Wallaby Track, 1896 by Frederick McCubbin
On the Wallaby Track, 1896

Setting Sun, 1911 by Frederick McCubbin
Setting Sun, 1911

McCubbin was born in Melbourne and was educated at William Willmett's West Melbourne Common School and St Paul's School, Swanston Street. He later worked for a time as solicitor's clerk, a coach painter and in his family's bakery business while studying art at the National Gallery of Victoria's School of Design, where he met Tom Roberts and studied under Eugene von Guerard. 

Lost, 1886 by Frederick McCubbin
Lost, 1886

By the early 1880s, McCubbin's work began to attract considerable attention and won a number of prizes from the National Gallery, including a first prize in 1883 in their annual student exhibition.

Lost, 1907 by Frederick McCubbin
Lost, 1907

In 1888, he became 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.

Mary, 1891 by Frederick McCubbin
Mary, 1891

McCubbin was exhibiting and perhaps painting in the studio of his friend Tom Roberts in the Grosvenor Chambers in Collins St by May 1888. His son, Louis, would later have a studio in the same building.

Princes Bridge, 1908 by Frederick McCubbin
Princes Bridge, 1908

In 1901 McCubbin and his family moved to Mount Macedon, transporting a prefabricated English style home up onto the northern slopes of the mountain which they named Fontainebleau. It was in this beautiful setting, in 1904, that he painted The Pioneer, amongst many other works, and this is the only place that McCubbin ever painted fairies. 

The North Wind, 1888 by Frederick McCubbin
The North Wind, 1888

McCubbin continued to paint through the first two decades of the 20th century, though by the beginning of World War I his health began to fail. In 1912 he became the founding member of the Australian Art Association. McCubbin died in 1917 from a heart attack.

The Letter, 1884 by Frederick McCubbin
The Letter, 1884

"McCubbin creates an engulfing, claustrophobic landscape by barely suggesting any horizon and compressing midground and background. In contrast, the bush folk are portrayed as heroic figures."

In 1998 McCubbin's painting Bush Idyll (1893) sold for $2,312,500, widely considered to be amongst the finest paintings in Australian art history.

Bush Idyll, 1893 by Frederick McCubbin
Bush Idyll, 1893

On 22 March 2016, McCubbin's painting An Old Politician (1879), resurfaced from a private vault in an Australian bank. The painting has not been viewed in public exhibition since its sale to a private collector in the 1880s.

An Old Politician, 1879 by Frederick McCubbin
An Old Politician, 1879