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image icon 'Kitchen at the old King Street bakery'

'Kitchen at the old King Street bakery'
Art Gallery of South Australia

Description

This is an oil painting on canvas (50.6 cm x 61.2 cm) showing the kitchen area of the family home in which the artist, Frederick McCubbin, (1855-1917) was born. It is a functional space, as evidenced by the kettle set on a glowing fire; a teacup and saucer on a wooden table next to a chair; and various utensils including pots, pans, jugs, clothes, candlesticks and a drying rack. A glimpse of a small yard can be seen through the lace curtain of the kitchen window, while the open door that leads to an adjoining room shows a sewing machine next to a window. The overturned sewing basket in the foreground suggests that someone has just hurriedly left the room.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • provides an insight into the early style and development of an artist who was a key figure in the Heidelberg School of landscape painting and who is known nationally for his depictions of pioneering life in the bush
  • incorporates strong narrative elements, a significant feature of the artist's later work, as seen in the major works 'The pioneer' (1904) and ‘On the wallaby track’ (1896) - the empty chair and the sewing basket with its contents spilling onto the floor are clues that McCubbin's audience would have known how to piece the elements together to build a story
  • shows the influence of 17th-century paintings of interiors by Dutch painters on Australian art of this period, particularly in the use of light-to-dark tones and the inclusion of doorways and windows as visual devices to lead the eye around the composition
  • provides a very detailed depiction of part of the domestic interior of a small family business in late 19th-century Australia - the house was attached to the family bakery
  • documents a 'woman's space' (used by the artist's mother) and gives an insight into the roles and responsibilities of women in the home in this period
  • contains references to a diversity of work skills (cooking, sewing, washing) and technologies (lighting, heating, water supply) associated with domestic management at the time
  • shows how working-class families used decorative items (the painted canvas floor covering, the lace curtain and ornamental teapot) and arrangements of utensils (those above the fireplace) to add personality to functional interiors.