I love art. Had I not been born with the ability to draw stick figures with all the panache of a dyslexic caterpillar I would certainly have attempted more than the few contemporary canvases I painted at boarding school. I once even had go ala Pro Hart. However throwing tins of paint on a piece of material in an effort to create a thing of beauty didn’t quite happen for me either. Luckily Australia has a plethora of wonderful artists to study and admire and most importantly, inspire. One of my favourites is Frederick McCubbin and his On the Wallaby Track (below) which hangs in Sydney’s NSW Art Gallery is one of his most well-known pieces.






McCubbin was born in Melbourne, the third of eight children of a Scottish baker Alexander, and his English wife Anne. He worked to support himself while studying art at the National Gallery of Victoria’s School of Design and sold his first painting in 1880.

By the early 1880s, McCubbin’s work began to attract considerable attention and won a number of prizes from the National Gallery, soon after he concentrated more on painting the Australian bush, the works for which he became notable. His bush scenes although beautiful often come across as stifling and almost claustrophobic while his figures, the men and women who try and carve a place for themselves in the outback are portrayed as heroic figures.


The Pioneer (left) was painted after McCubbin had married (he and wife Annie had seven children) and had moved to Mount Macedon in Victoria in 1901. They  transported a prefabricated English style home up onto the northern slopes of the mountain which they named Fontainebleau. The Pioneer was painted in 1904 amongst many other works. The house survived the Ash Wednesday 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 colour in nature.

McCubbin died in 1917 from a heart attack but he left us with a beautiful record of Australia’s pioneering life.