Arts & Culture

The pioneer

Frederick McCubbin1904

National Gallery of Victoria
National Gallery of Victoria

As the nineteenth century ended, Australians looked back to the achievements of the early colonists and a sense of national identity began to emerge. It was in this last decade that McCubbin started his series portraying the lives of early pioneers. This painting conveys the artist’s admiration for the resilience and tenacity of the colonists in facing the demands of pioneering life. The use of the triptych format alludes to religious art; indeed, the painting is a hymn of praise to the spirit of these people – their hard work, fortitude and tenacity in clearing and settling the bush. McCubbin depicts the joint effort of man and woman, combining their separate skills in the struggle to build a life and develop a country for future generations. The pioneer woman is a far cry from the passive, fragile creature of Victorian ideals, who could not have survived long in these surroundings.

Text © National Gallery of Victoria, Australia

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Details

  • Title: The pioneer
  • Creator: Frederick McCubbin
  • Date Created: 1904
  • Location Created: "Mount Macedon, Victoria", Australia
  • Provenance: Exhibited, Winter Exhibition, Victorian Artists' Society, Melbourne, 1905, no. 43 as The Pioneer; from where purchased for the Felton Bequest, 1906.
  • Place Part Of: Australia
  • Physical Dimensions: w2957 x h2250 cm (Unframed)
  • Additional information: Frederick McCubbin was born in Melbourne in 1855. He entered the National Gallery School of Design in 1872 and joined the National Gallery School in 1877, with Tom Roberts as a fellow student. From 1885 McCubbin and Roberts led plein air painting expeditions to Box Hill, Mentone and the Heidelberg area. In 1889 he contributed five works to The 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition and also painted the first of his ambitiously scaled pioneering history subjects. In 1901 he purchased a cottage at Mount Macedon, near Melbourne, where this, his best-known painting was made.
  • Type: Paintings
  • Rights: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1906, © National Gallery of Victoria
  • External Link: National Gallery of Victoria
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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