State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 24 October 1979


Notes by Frederick Mccubbin

This is an endeavour on my part to put down the memory of events that occurred in my lifetime during the last thirty eight or forty years.
The chief point of interest in these memoirs [is] the recording of the struggles of a number of my fellow students and myself in our endeavours to follow the fascinating career of artists, in a country that was newly settled by an immigrant population who had just come from the old land all in pursuit of fortunes. Ah me how few realised their wishes in that respect.
The people were keen on material success everybody wanting to get back to the old land, with long purses. About the time that I consider made an event in my life that I shall never forget, that is the year 1873, Melbourne had more or less settled down to the inevitable conclusion that it was just as well to make the most of the country that we were, most of us, born in. And so about a year previous to the date above mentioned, the newly formed Technical Commission opened in all the suburbs and leading provincial towns a number of schools designated Schools of Design.1
I remember reading about these Schools occasionally in the press, also meeting a school mate who had put in a quarter at them — he said they were no good. However just a few months before meeting this young man the worthy pastor of the church we went to was talking to my good mother about my fondness for drawing. So he kindly asked me to come and see him. I felt terribly shy about it. I think it was positive torture to go to the parsonage, his gracious kindly manner and old world courtesy and the atmosphere of refinment about the place all made me feel very out of place and self conscious.
However he gave me some lithographs to copy and lent me a copy of the lives of English painters by Allen Cunningham2 — he wanted to encourage me to study landscape drawing. I remember copying these prints just as a duty but felt no enthusiasm of them.
I was then apprenticed to the wheelwright trade, working in a shop full of shavings from seven in the morning to six at night.
So the drawings were copied in the evening. Well, one day while I was painting an old dray in red and blue it flashed across my mind that I would like to join one of the Schools of Design and learn to draw figures. The fee per quarter was two shillings so the following Friday evening saw me off to the Trades Hall School of Design, Ligon Street, Carlton,3 sitting on the stairs of the old wooden building waiting for eight o'clock when the school opened. They asked me what class I wished to join I said figure drawing. I had a pencil and drawing book so I was soon settled in a seat, and a venerable old gentleman, with a head the counterpart of the bust of Socrates, made an outline drawing [of] a head which we spent the evening copying carefully in our drawing books — and then at half past nine we were dismissed but before leaving we were allowed to select a lithograph of a study to take home and copy. I will never forget my first copy it was a study of two angels. I found many years afterwards it was a fragment of one of le Sueur's4 pictures. Well I was in seventh heaven, I had really got into the palace of Art. It was a joy all day while trying to knock out rusty bolts and help [to] tire wheels and paint and putty the same to let my mind wander over the charms of painting.
There is one incident occurs to my memory in those old times and that was that on my way up to the school I had to pass an hotel at the corner of Queen and Lonsdale Streets. It was called Rigbys Council Club. Now on the first floor was a large room, a dining room I think and every time I passed when it was lit up on the wall opposite the window was a copy of the Flora by Titian. Well no picture I have ever seen since can ever equal the charms that picture was to me — all the sumptuous beauty and golden colour of all the Titians are summed up to me in the memory of that time, I walked on air. It felt so near. I did not realise the
gulf that lay between my miserable untrained scrawls and that divine work, but it smiled a welcome and I said within myself like Douglas of old Lead on brave heart I follow. There used to be a sort of legend about that time that Australia would do great things in Art where it sprang from or how goodness only knows. And I must also mention another source of delight and encouragement that was the possession of a number of steel engravings from a book called Turners Annual Tour5 that I managed to save from destruction in an old scrap book. I may as well tell I still have them, and they look just as beautiful as ever they did in days gone by.
Well to resume the drawing went on at the School and I got acquainted with a number of my fellow students. Just at the back of where I sat was a raised platform and drawing from an elaborate scroll of ornament and birds sat my old friend Charles Richardson6 — he was studying ornament and in the class that I was in the foremost lad was Robert Elliot, and another named Barbour, also many others I have clean forgotten but one, a life long friend my dear old friend Louis Abrahams.7
Our teacher Mr. Thomas Clark8 was kind and indulgent … his health was failing him when I met him. Well we went merrily on till the nearing of the annual prize giving, when a new student turned up. The now-celebrated Louis Brennan of torpedo and Mona rail fame. He was [an] old play mate of mine down in Kings St. and even in those early days a boy of remarkable character. He and his Brother lived with their parents in a little bluestone cottage just over the way from us. His father took photographs out in a covered awning in the back yard and took the first carte de visite photo I ever had taken …
I often laugh over the time. The prize giving was a great affair to us youngsters. The Head of the School Mr. Samuel Hartly Roberts, Mr. Chard and Mr. Murry were on the platform and the president Judge Bindon in the chair. It was very good on the part of these worthy gentlemen to do their best to encourage a taste for art and science in the younger generation.
They got together the best talent obtainable to teach. I don't remember all the teachers but old Mr. Schuh who taught me at school. He had charge of the model drawing and Mr. T. H. Wright9 the landscape drawing. These schools throughout Victoria meeting about one night a week for one hour and a half with very inadequate means for imparting instruction. It is surprising the amount of talent that owes it[s] first encouragement to these schools. To enumerate a few only of the talented men that began their study under these conditions I may mention Charles D. Richardson sculptor, Mr. Tom Roberts10 painter and Mr. J. Longstaff11 painter, also many others have taken positions in Architecture and Mechanics. The most promising results came from Ballarat under Mr. Brun. The work of a Mr. Figgis and Mr. Adams and a Miss Annear were of distinct promise also. I remember the names of Mr. Kennedy and Grant in our own school.
One evening our old Instructor Mr. T. Clark invited me to visit the new school at the Public Library then about a year old. Mr. Clark had been appointed to the post of instructor of drawing. So one evening I ventured to call on him in the National Gallery, he told me to look round so I wandered round and saw some of the students drawing some of the statuary, they were of all ages, a good number of middle-aged men, some were copying one or two of the Arundel Society lithographs12 of old masters and four young men were engaged copying an enamel picture called, I afterwards learned, the Judith of Redel. So altogether it struck me as no end of a place to study. The classes were held on Monday and Wednesday evenings from seven to half past nine.
So on the commencement of the quarter I was duly installed a member of the school. The school was also open every day from ten till four p.m.
I remember very well that just previous to my entry in the National Gallery schools I paid my first visit to the Picture Gallery in company with one of my fellow pupils from
the School of Design. I had never been in a gallery before and had only seen an occasional picture, my ideas of art were inspired by the local scene painting in the Theatre Royal and Princess so that the greater number of my early efforts were directed to making paper theatres. What delight I had in those scenes remembered from the different plays I had been to. The decoration of the Proscenium in water colours, the side scenes and black cloths. And little figures cut out of paper and the working of these scenes, and alas the trouble I got into over them. When I was about thirteen years old I was sent to a lawyers office, Mr. Withers, Eldon Chambers, Bank Place and after being there about two months or so I was often for days together left alone to conduct the business of the office. Well to while away the time I used to make paper theatres. So one day another boy joined me in the office and I recollect he showed a scene I had just made to Mr. Richard Hardwood who recognised the attempt. He Mr. Hardwood being represented as the Pirate chief in the Burlesque The Bride and Abydos or the bounding bricks of Williamstown. Well an end came to my career as a Lawyers Clerk. One day my father inquired how I was getting on. Mr. Withers took him to my desk and showed him all my efforts in the way of art. I shall never forget the talking to I got on that occasion, I was sent there to improve my writing and instead I wasted my time on this rubbish. If I had shown a taste for letters I believe he would have pushed me for a University career but painting, nothing in it, so I became for about three years a bakers carter. Dad gave me a round in North Melbourne and Emerald Hill and also taking bread down on the Melbourne swamp, and being down on the wharf to serve the Old Geelong boat the Express that left at four o'clock. We were up at six and packed our carts, harnessed the old moke I drove, old Tom, and off, I shall never forget the mud in winter-time down on the swamp — the tracks round the Gas Works, the timber laying about and the narrow shaves from being capsized en route, and Bully Browns cook, how he swore. And some times we got stuck in the mud, and the routine day after day, and the never-done feeling of it all. Across the dreary track of Philistine surroundings there was a young man who drove for dad named Harry Lynot. He worked all day and studied Cobbetts method of learning French at night.
We had brave times together he lent me the Iliad and the Odyssey and introduced me to the Genius of Napoleon. I also devoured Telemachus by Fenelon.13 He used to go to the Library odd nights.
Dear old Harry he went before the masts afterwards and I only saw him once again on his return from Melbourne to Calcutta — a born rover. How much genuine instruction I owed him that I can never repay.
Well after this digression I may state that I did make an attempt to visit the Art Gallery one Saturday afternoon but being under age, I was about eleven at the time, my school mate and I were turned out. So my first real visit was with R. Elliott, he was more advanced than myself, he showed me Peter Grahams14 Autumnal Shower point [ing] out its beauties in a way that made the picture a new version of nature. The pleasure of that visit is an abiding memory.
To continue at the gallery I did just what I thought was the right thing, got a half sheet of smooth tinted paper and began copying anything that struck me.
Hearing one of the older students say that the Venus de Medici was the most difficult thing to draw in the Gallery and that a person who could draw that could do anything I though the best thing to do was to copy it so I put down all I knew about it in a couple of nights (you can imagine what it looked like.)
I may mention the reason why I wandered on [in] this vague way was because the Instructor Mr. Thomas Clark who was a very able man especially at life drawing and painting studying as he did when Etty15 was painting in the Royal Academy life classes…
He took a number of medals and also [was] an excellent portrait painter — was partly paralysed, he could only speak in the
faintest whisper and he was that feeble he could hardly hold a crayon — so we youngsters did what we pretty well pleased …
The Art School under Mr. Clark's rule was a very attractive place. The old gentleman was there every day, he sat in a chair in the life class room. He had a picture hanging there, it was a stampede of Horses from the Trojan Camp at the siege of Troy.16 We thought everthing of it.
I have gone up on New Years day but did not venture to draw in the school, too many people and also a public Holiday but he was there. I went upstairs to the reading room and copied some heads out of a work called The Anatomy of expression I forgot who by. I met him as I came down and he said If I had gone to the old life class room I could have drawn or painted all day. Saturday afternoon was a field day for us night students. We were free from the weekly grind and felt ourselves in exalted atmosphere and we were a regular go as you please. One day I met a very talented young man, who made a marked impression on the art world of Melbourne, a Mr. John White. He was drawing an antique and he gave me some useful information. At this time I had been in the School about three years. He was going away to England at the time and subsequently had a very marked success. His work causing very favourable comment. Hung on the line in the R.A. and a brilliant future, but of late I have never heard a great deal about him. He had been working for Moore the painters and decorators, and I heard he did all the Landscapes in the old Busses that used to run where the trams are now employed.
Well he said to me you copy all the Anatomical drawings in a large book we had in the School called Flaxmans book of anatomy17 with the names of all the bones and the origin and insertion of all the superficial muscles. Well I did exactly what he advised and draw all the drawing and learnt the letter press off by heart.
In the meantime my father took me from Mr. J. Wardlaws establishment and put me on the Bakers cart again. Well I liked it better than the shop in most ways, the hours were longer but the open air and variety of life had a charm. As long as I could think that some day I might paint pictures like I saw engravings of Titan and Turner and Rembrandt.
I made a number of friends in the school. There was Mr. Donald Wilson with a rich sense of humour and love of caricature and Mr. P. Kirk who had a strong feeling for the figure and had fine promise. Then a few months after I joined a tall young fellow turned up, with a very keen sense for drawing and I think was one of the most earnest draughtsman in the school Mr. Tom Roberts. He was just as generous in his appreciation as he was thorough in his work. We were a very happy family then there was old Mr. Horn, he was a character. He used to paint large studies of the bas reliefs and introduce ornamental frames of cupids and scrolls. They were large and painted in distemper — he used to bring up copies of landscapes from engravings and also interiors of cathedrals in the old world. He told us he studied at Somerset House when the great Mr. Herbert gave occasional lessons, forty years before — many a yarn we had. He used to say do you know why [the pictures of Turner and Creswick] are so good, my boy they used the most expensive colours, carmines and lakes and real ultramarine. We had no sympathy with his work but we all liked him personally.
Then Miss Sutherland18 did earnest work, but it was all a very up hill fight, ideas we wanted some direction in which to steer but our dear old Master couldn't help us by any very practical hints. Vague ideas entered our heads. I read modern painters by Ruskin19 I was dazzled by his charm of writing but could not get any way of study that was of much use, his enthusiasm for Nature made us look [at] it with more reverence.
Well time went on I remember Roberts and I drawing outlines of Heads and Hands and feet and full figures from the casts for some two years or so.
Then one day our kindly and generous old teacher resigned20 failing health was undoubtedly the chief reason.
When I look back over my early struggles and upbringing the point of view both of myself and others in those early days both of my country and myself, difficulties of expression make it very hard too for me to make others realise one's mental attitude towards life generally. My earliest memories are full of suggestions of England and Ireland and Scotland. Everybody who was grown up spoke of Home, the old Country. Memories of strings of immigrants coming up from the wharves, talk of ships and the sea, boarding houses were unnumerable, boxes with titles such as Not Wanted on the Voyage, sailors and the maid servants who told us stories of old Ireland and sometimes Scotland … people from Home staying with us each bringing the quota of romantic stories of the Old World. I recollect how often I looked at the head piece on the first page of the illustrated London News, with that view of St Pauls and the Royal barges going up the river, and the little peep shows of the Crystal Palace and the fascinations of Windsor, etc. and people said this was a dreadful country and why did they ever come to such a dreary land and then the awful Hot Winds that blew in summer—and the fearful dust storms, and the dreary monotonous bush, all the same, no variety so sad and sombre. They were a Home sick people … and then I remember I was called a gum sucker, a colonial and no good, no stamina would be old and broken by the time I reached thirty and so on.
I remember being taken somewhere one lovely Sunday, and all the boats on the Yarra were decked with flags. A lovely south wind blowing, and later on a picnic in Studley Park. I thought it a dream just like the engravings in Turner ‘Wanderings on the Loire’ …
We had our hair cut by a fashionable barber in Collins Street, then we lunched in the Old Free Masons in Swanston Street, and then to the Pantomine in the old Theatre Royal. I remember it was Little Jack Horner …
Well, after Mr. Clark resigned we had a new teacher21 appointed and he reigned instead of our dear old instructor Mr. Clark.
Well under the new regime which lasted about six or seven years began the most dreary and hopeless period of our student days. We all got at loggerheads with our new instructor, we tried all sorts of ways to study, I remember making careful outlines of antique figures, drawing outlines in the most laboured way of hands and feet so as not to waste our time in stippling up badly constructed drawings — Reading Ruskin who talked very beautifully but was of no practical help, studied Burnett on Composition,22 but all of very little practical help to students … We were far removed from any practical tradition of Art and Method of Study.
About this time I joined the life class which had been started in connection with the School by some of the older students — men like E. W. Cook23 and White attended occasionally. I met Mr. Cook and he told me he was going to England and that his friend Mr. N. Alcelevair had asked him to go: and he would help him.
The one good practice I got was the steady drawing from Life during the greater part of that time it was an up hill game, I assure you. Not an idea not a hint that could help us in any way. As these older Gentlemen moved out of the class we were left a parcel of young Australians anxious to do something in the picture making way but absolutely stranded as to how to set about it.
Well there is a happy gleam through the dull time. I got intimite with one of my fellow students, my now life long friend Tom Roberts. We both of us were engaged every day, he in Photography at Stewarts at the top of Bourke St. where he was a very successful operator and in the same place Mr. Barry now of Talma's24 and Mr. Barnett25 of Falks Studio were also learning the profession I think.
I in the meantime had left Bakers carting and had become apprenticed to the coach and herald painting at the firm of Stevenson & Elliot's. By the way there was precious little herald painting in the establishment We had long hours six to six o'clock, and then home and up to the drawing school till near
ten o'clock, and we got away at one o'clock on Saturdays.
I worked on, having some previous experience I was soon put on to the more advanced work picking out and lining old traps, not the best work, that was only for the foreman and a very fine craftsman he was. It has been instructive to me since to remember how thorough these men were in their work, how careful a good carriage builder or coach smith or trimmer or painter really was I had the privilege of know [ing] about six of these men who could be called thorough craftsmen. About all good work there is great dignity especially when it is executed with some leasure.
I learnt the trade with only one object that was to do piece work at the small shops so that I might have a couple of days a week to learn painting. I don't know that there is anything about this period of my efforts to become a painter that has not a dreary and hopeless outlook. One day one of the men said to me You will not stick at this game you will want to go in for something else. Well I did so during that time, I tried to qualify myself for a teacher of drawing in the State school. I was told to study Burchetts perspective and Taits geometry Alegs[?] series and learn all the problems off by heart. Well I went through both books. I had nobody to give me the least hint as to what these people wanted, for example it was only the first six chapters that were necessary for the exam, however I managed to scramble through the first part of the exam, that was the licence to teach but I did not manage the second part, that was the certificate to teach I remember I always failed in the test of teaching. A class was put in front of me and I had to give them a lesson. Will I ever forget the nervous feeling. I never got a single hint how to do it and I never new whether I stood on my head or heels when I tried to. Ah well that's long ago.
We had in connection with our class a sketch club. We exhibited once a month. A word was given which we endeavoured to illustrate for, our ideas were all for History painting, sepia drawings of Bible subjects, then Shakespeare's plays. I think were the two great sources of our inspiration — we were nothing if not ambitious.
Well one Saturday afternoon Tom Roberts invited me to go sketching in Studley Park, he lived near the corner of Smith and Johnsons St. Collingwood. There was no trams in those days — just the old bus to the corner and a tramp of half an hour to the park. And there for the first time I got awakened to the beauties of Australian Landscape I remember that happy afternoon as a delightful memory. Mrs. Roberts Tom's Mother said to me Well and what is your forte, my son's is Landscape. I said figure drawing. Well we had a splendid day and got wet through on the way back in a thunder storm, and then I stayed to Supper and got thoroughly dried and went and saw some of his copies of Hardings drawings and some of his own they were very promising.
About this time Edgar Mackennal26 and his brother joined the classes under Edgar's brother's instruction and we did a little clay modelling and casting of plaster of paris from studies in the school. Mackennal was a charming personality and we called [him] Mr. Sunny. The life class was held one night a week, Thursday. The Trustees gave us the room and the Gas. We provided the model. Well funds got so low that we decided to be models ourselves three nights a week turn about.
By this time our life class consisted of a number of young enthusiasts. There was T. Roberts, Richardson, Hugh Paterson, D. Wilson, Mr. Barnes and myself. I forgot whether there were any more. Ever since then I have had a good deal of sympathy for the models in our school. How stiff I felt after it. Well we struggled on, at last we got a sufficient number of members to enable us to pay a model and each of us in turn became Secretary for the class. Events crowd in, I remember painting a picture of some children on the Wharf, a group, the background consisting of the old Abbatoirs close by what is called the New Dock. The old building was very picturesque and the
children used to go down there to gather chips and bits of coal etc.
Well it was all done from pencil sketches and painted at odd times Saturday afternoon or any time I could get sittings and I sent it into the V.A. Arts that had just started a gallery in Albert St. It was pretty poor painting, however I got it accepted.27 This was during the latter part of the tune I was at Stevenson & Elliot's carriage factory.
How we sweated all day in that galvanized iron paint shop in the Hot Summers. The foreman singing hymns in the one part and the rest of us swearing away in the other. I remember one hot afternoon bolting away at two o'clock with a fellow sufferer down to the sea, at what is now known as Middle Park to bathe in the open. There were no houses there then but the tea tree scrub stretched right along towards St. Kilda. And the tramp back that Hot afternoon. And another day, a lovely day, going down to Richmond park to sketch some old Gum trees. I have still got one of these drawings. And then leaving the dismal drudgery of the factory and going on my own as a piece worker getting jobs from different small shops picking out and lining drays and carts and lorries etc. That gave me sometimes two or three days a week free, and I joined the painting classes at the National Gallery working for about eighteen months under Mr. E. Von Gerard,28 who was the instructor, the instruction consisting of copying pictures. There was a number of ladies and only T. Roberts and myself male pupils. It was to any serious worker just another blank wall, no ideas, no method, no study either from the life or still life, just a hopeless struggle. Up to that time we had never heard even of a still life study. The ladies seemed to be quite satisfied, they would copy some picture and as long as it was exhibited in a music shop window in Collins St. they were satisfied. How ever the instructor could think it was of any advantage to a student (I don't know) it was just hopeless.
To go back over this period is a dreary prospect. Our mental attitude towards Art and life offered a very dreary outlook. The unfortunate mental atmosphere of a City like Melbourne, the minds of the inhabitants being taken up mainly with material affairs. Everybody keen on the main chance—money. My early surroundings, many sides of it hostile to any form of artistic expression. All this time a great Landscape painter was expressing in many beautiful pictures the charms of our lovely land, a few enthusiastic admirers buying all his pictures.
Roberts and I had an immense reverence for the work he did but we had no chance of knowing him he perhaps being the only man at that time who could give us a hint of all the beauties that were under our very eyes.29
Dreaming of Historical pictures and vague longings to attempt the same. But most of us owe it to him that slowly we were able to see the paintable qualities of that which lay immediately around us. The exquisite beauty of our lovely skies, the glorious colour and form of our green trees. How cold and tame the deciduous trees are to us after the beauty and warmth of our native land. But this took time and it was many years ahead before their possibilities became open to us.
Some short time after this a great trouble came to me in the death of my Father.30 He had been ailing for some time previous but one day while I had been engaged on a contract job to paint and pick out some donkey engines for the firm of McColl & Black I reached home to find my poor Father had had an epileptic seizure from which he never recovered and died about a week after.
Well time went on. My brother James who had not long returned from England went off to N. Zealand and from thence back to Liverpool, so I had to stay with my good Mother and try to manage a business that I had not a very practical knowledge of but I managed after a time to get a good control of the business side of it and succeed in making it Pay.
But just previous to this time I succeeded in painting three little pictures that I can still look back upon with some pleasure. I painted I think the first picture that was ever
painted in this part of the world entirely out of doors. The oils that had been exhibited up to this time were made either from water colour sketches or else pencil drawings. I may of course be wrong in this but whether or no it is not of great moment. This little picture gave me the first glimmerings of atmosphere. The other was a picture of the new dock, it was reminiscent of pictures I had seen. The last was an historical idea built up from a sky study I had made from a window and the buildings I introduced from photos I copied of ancient Thebes by Capt Abney. The subject was ambitious as usual with our sketch Club, Cleopatra sailing down the Cyndus.31 However they were all hung in the V.A.R. and nicely noticed and the open air picture was bought by D. Bage. It's many a year since I saw it. I should like to have another look at it.
Well, unfortunately for my Artistic career I had for a considerable time to drop all ideas of becoming a painter and to make matters worse my old friend T. Roberts, and C. D. Richardson32 determined to go off to London, and a little while after Edgar Mackennal followed suit. So three of the most talented of my comrades were off to the old World. Tom R was and is a great correspondent. How eagerly I heard of the wonders of Art and the struggles of my friends, they all got into the R.A. Schools and did well there. Tadmea33 was the favourite visitor at the R.A. and [B.] H. Bates34 the brilliant sculptor, and the work of Grieffenhasen35 and many other rising men I heard a lot about.
I well remember how sad I often felt and thought I should never have another show, the old longing was still there. And after some time as I had often a spare night I thought why shouldn't I go back to the old Thursday life class. Somers had gone to teach for the Education department at Castlemaine, Kirk had gone into Music and Wilson to Coach Building. So after about two months absence I went back to the Thursday life class. It was one Winter evening and I was there before the model came and the students.
There was a book called Harding Landscape,36 some beautiful studies of trees. The joy of being again in the delightful atmosphere, the old passion for expression became strong again, I was nearly overcome at the thought of giving it up and when the model turned up I felt that it was the happiest evening I ever had. So I resolved come what might I should still hang on.
We used to have a model some time before the latter event. If my memory serves me about two years before, a draped figure, some of us painted some drew, every Saturday afternoon in the life class room.
Well one day the teacher of the school told us it was closed and we could use the modelling room. Well there was a dozen of us and the modelling room was too small, about twelve feet square, so we petitioned the Trustees but they upheld the teacher. Well my old friend Richardson was a member of the V.A.R. and he got us permission from that body to use their Gallery for a class room on the Saturday afternoons. So our class at the National Gallery was closed for good. Subsequently we petitioned the Trustees to appoint someone to teach us to paint heads etc. but for the time being not any thing came of it.
Well to resume, my old friend L. Abrahams who had established a business and had been out of the Art World for a few years came back like myself to put in his spare time at the Gallery, and I used to try to get an occasional block to illustrate for the Australian News and The Sketcher.37
Ann Galbally


Following British example several Schools of Design were established in. Victoria in the 1860's. Although primarily intended to teach the principles of design for application to industry to intending artisans, they were in fact the only means of public instruction in drawing available in Victoria at this time. This situation was short-lived. In 1870 the Victorian Academy of the Arts, newly-formed, offered instruction to its members and in the same year the National Gallery of Victoria opened its own school offering instruction in both drawing and painting.


Allen Cunningham The lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors and Architects. London, J. Murray, 1830–33. 6 vols.


c. 1868–69.


Eustache Le Sueur (1616–55) French painter. A pupil of Vouet, he was admired in the nineteenth century as a contemporary and follower of Poussin.


The Rivers of France by J. M. W. Turner. ‘The Annual Tour’ 1833, 4, 5.


Charles Douglas Richardson (1853–1932) painter and sculptor. He was a close friend of both McCubbin and Tom Roberts.


Louis Abrahams (1852–1903).


Thomas Clark (1814–1883). Born London. Headmaster, School of Design, Birmingham 1846. Arrived Melbourne c. 1852. Appointed to teach figure drawing at the Carlton School of Design in 1869. Became Drawing Master at the National Gallery of Victoria School the following year. Resigned 1876 through ill-health. Died Melbourne 1883.


Thomas Wright (1830–1886). Born Sheffield, England. Arrived Melbourne 1852. Became a teacher at the Lygon Street School of Design in 1869. Was on the founding council of the Victorian Artists’ Academy in 1870.


Tom Roberts (1856–1931). Born Dorchester, England. Emigrated to Melbourne with his mother, brother and sister in 1869.


John Longstaff (1864–1941). Born Clunes, Victoria. Won the first Travelling Scholarship from the National Gallery of Victoria School in 1887 and continued his studies in Paris.


Arundel Society, A collection of chromolithographs from copies of important works of ancient masters, chiefly of the Italian Schools [issued by the Arundel Society, 1856–1897].


Francois de Salignac de la Mothe Fenelon, Les adventures de Telemaque, fils d'Ulysse … . Bruxelles, Francois Fopens. 1699.


Peter Graham (1836–1921), Scottish-born painter who became a Royal Academician in 1881. His Autumnal Showers oil on canvas, 124.3 × 174.5 cm was painted in 1869 and selected for purchase by the National Gallery of Victoria in the same year, the year of its exhibition at the Royal Academy. The picture was purchased on the advice of A. Taddy Thomson and the price paid was £577.10.0.


William Etty (1787–1849), English painter who trained at the Royal Academy Schools and then with Thomas Lawrence. Highly thought of in the nineteenth century on account of his sumptuous nudes.


The picture is Thomas Clark's Ulysses and Diomed capturing the horses of Rhesus, King of Thrace. Oil on Canvas 109.3 × 193.6 cm. Now in the collection of the Bendigo Art Gallery.


Anatomical studies of the bones and muscles, for the use of artists, from drawings by the late John Flaxman, Esq., R.A. engraved by Henry Landseer; with two additional plates and explanatory notes by William Robertson. London, Nattali, 1833.


Jane Sutherland (1855–1928). Born Glasgow and emigrated with her family to Sydney in 1864 and then to Melbourne in 1870. Attended the National Gallery of Victoria art schools with Frederick McCubbin and accompanied him and other artists on sketching trips around Melbourne. First woman to become a member of the Council of Victorian Artists’ Society, in 1900. Suffered a debilitating stroke in 1904 and died in Melbourne in 1928.


John Ruskin Modern Painters 1843–1860. 5 vols.




Oswald Rose Campbell (1820–1886). Born Scotland, studied Trustees Academy, Edinburgh and Royal Academy, London. Arrived Melbourne early 1850's; spent some years in Sydney as cartoonists on the Sydney Punch, returned Melbourne late 1860's. Chairman of the Victorian Academy of the Arts 1870–73. Appointed Drawing Master of the National Gallery School in 1876 and remained at the post until his death in 1886.


John Burnet, A Practical Treatise on Painting. London, 1827.


E. W. Cook (1844–1926). Born Essex, England. Arrived Melbourne 1852. Became assistant pupil to Nicholas Chevalier. Foundation Member, Victorian Artists’ Academy. Returned to England in 1873; exhibited at the Royal Academy and sent European works back to Australia.


Andrew Barry, born Glasgow 1860, came to Victorian Goldfields as a child. As a young man became — with Walter Barnett and Tom Roberts — one of the operators of ‘Stewarts of Bourke Street.’ Opened the Talma Studio in Swanston Street in 1895.


Henry Walter Barnett, born East Melbourne 1862. After a successful career in Melbourne and Sydney, where he ran Falks studio, went to London where he established a fashionable studio at No. 1 Park Side, Hyde Park Corner. Was a generous friend to Australian artists in London. Died in France in 1928.


Edgar Bertram Mackennal (1863–1931). Born Melbourne, studied sculpture under his father J. S. Mackennal, at the Gallery School in Melbourne and went to London in 1883, then to Paris and Rome for further study. Eventually settled in England where he became a Royal Academician in 1922.


McCubbin's View of the New Dock oil on canvas was exhibited at the Victorian Academy of the Arts in 1880, catalogue no. 61, price 6 gns.


Eugene von Guerard (1811–1901). Born Vienna the son of a Dusseldorf artist, a portrait miniaturist. In 1826 father and son left for Italy; in 1838 Eugene returned to study at the Dusseldorf Academy. He moved to London in 1852 and left the same year for the Ballarat gold-fields. Settled in Melbourne and was appointed Master of the School of Art and Curator of the National Gallery in 1870. Resigned 1881 and returnned to Europe. Died in London in 1901.


Probably Louis Buvelot (1814–1885). Born Morges, Vaud, Switzerland. Studied at Lausanne and then in Paris under the naturalistic landscape painter Camille Flers in 1834. Arrived in Melbourne in 1865 and was quickly recognised as a landscape painter of merit. Briefly taught landscape painting at the Carlton School of Design in 1869. Was the most admired and influential artist in Australia in the 1870's.




McCubbin exhibited an oil sketch Sketch from Antony and Cleopatra at the Victorian Academy of the Arts in 1880, catalogue no. 12, price 8 gns. The following year he showed another oil sketch entitled Thebesa Sketch catalogue no. 79, for 10 gns.




Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912). Dutch-born painter who settled in London and took British nationality in 1873. At this time he was at the height of his artistic, social and financial success. He became a Royal Academician in 1879 and was knighted in 1899.


Harry Bates (1850–1899), sculptor, was born at Stevenage, Hertfordshire. Studied under the emigre French sculptor Jules Dalou and entered the Royal Academy Schools in the same year as Tom Roberts. He won a travelling scholarship to Paris in 1883. A great friend of Tom Roberts and John Peter Russell.


Maurice Grieffenhagen (1862–1931). A student at the Royal Academy Schools with Roberts and C. D. Richardson. Won praise for his black and white work. Became a Royal Academician in 1922.


James Duffield Harding, Lessons on Trees ed. W. Walker, London, n.d.


McCubbin did a number of illustrations for the black and white press in the late 1870's and early 1880's. The relationship of his art to such popular imagery is a complex one and will be discussed at greater length in the monograph I am currently preparing on the artist for Hutchinson and Co.