Cultural Insight into Australia 20: Art (iv)

By | July 18, 2015

In the previous ‘Cultural Insight’, we looked at a famous painting by the early Australian painter Tom Robert (9 March 1856 – 14 September 1931). In contrast to Russel Drysdale (who came much later [See Cultural Insight 17]), Roberts saw the outback in a much more positive way.

Frederick McCubbin was a colleague of Robert’s, and they studied art together. McCubbin also saw the bush in a more positive, but often more reflective, way. Here is his most famous painting, called ‘The Pioneer’ (1904).



There is a story here, somewhat sad, and somewhat uplifting at the same time.

Picture 1:   The pioneers – a husband and wife – have arrived in a new area of bush land. Notice the expression on the wife’s face – not a happy one.

Picture 2:   Now these two people have a baby, a house (shown in the background), and the husband is clearing the forest for further agricultural purposes.

Picture 3:   Probably the son returns to visit the grave of (probably) his father or mother. Notice now that a small town can be seen in the distance. Time has passed; life moves on, and a country develops further. We are born, we live, and we die, eventually returning to the soil (from which we came).