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image icon 'A ti-tree glade'

'A ti-tree glade'
Art Gallery of South Australia


This is a large oil painting, measuring 170.1 cm x 138.4 cm, by Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917) - a member of the Heidelberg School of landscape artists who were active in Melbourne in the late 19th century. It shows a woman herding home a group of cows at a leisurely pace across a sunlit paddock. The action is framed by a foreground group of ti-trees that have been dimmed by late afternoon shadows. A gap in the trees reveals a patch of sunlight shining on the far side of a paddock.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • is an Australian impressionist landscape painting - by the later 1880s a number of Melbourne-based artists including McCubbin, Tom Roberts (1856-1931), Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) and Charles Conder (1868-1909), had successfully pioneered a regional variation of the international style of painting known as Impressionism; a school of painting associated with the work of these artists and others became known as the Heidelberg School (from the name of a village on the outskirts of Melbourne where these artists spent time painting at weekends and on holidays)
  • is a 'plein air' painting - 'plein air' is a French term meaning 'open air'; this style of painting involved artists working out of doors to develop a close familiarity with nature to understand and represent the behaviour of light, and to celebrate rural life and traditions; it is also a 'plein air' painting in a very real sense since the painting was executed (mainly on the spot) over several days on a farm near the artist's home in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton; the artist carried this canvas every day from his house to the field from where he painted this view
  • is a pastoral subject painting that has its origins in earlier European art traditions; the influential French artist Claude Lorrain (1600-82) created charismatic pastoral landscapes that evoked a sense of a golden, timeless age; McCubbin's more immediate influence in terms of interpretation of pastoral subject was the 19th-century French artist Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875), who excelled, in his later work, in painting wistful and poetic images of shepherds in silvery, shaded glades
  • is a good example of the kind of landscapes that McCubbin began to paint in the 1890s; the artist is well known for the heroic interpretations of pioneering life he made in the 1880s; in the 1890s the mood and focus of these landscapes changed - they were made to look peaceful and inviting through the use of a softer colour palette of greys and mauves; the subjects also lost their 'bush' character and were more recognisably domestic, suburban or rural
  • demonstrates McCubbin's skill in transforming simple domestic moments - by framing the figure and cattle with the foreground trees, and by restricting the brightest passage of light to the distant edge of the field, the artist has been able to create the impression that somehow this moment has special significance
  • demonstrates a wide range of impressionist painting techniques - the image has an out-of-focus quality that has been created by the way that the paint has been applied; this has the effect of transforming an everyday subject into a dream-like image; the dry brush application of paint has created strong textural qualities and diffused forms and edges which reinforce the sense of filtered light; the varied application of paint, particularly in the foreground areas, creates a rich complexity of layers that the eye instinctively wants to explore; from a distance these foreground areas 'click' into focus and become discernible as earth, twigs, leaf litter and small plants.