(i) MARY McCUBBIN, c.1893 - 94 (ii) KATHLEEN McCUBBIN, c.1908

Important Australian + International Fine Art
30 November 2011


(1855 - 1917)
(i) MARY McCUBBIN, c.1893 - 94 (ii) KATHLEEN McCUBBIN, c.1908

oil on canvas

50.5 x 40.0 cm (oval) (2)

(ii) signed lower left: F McCubbin

$150,000 - 200,000 (2)

(i)The artist's family, Melbourne
Possibly Sir Keith Murdoch, Melbourne
The Joshua McClelland Print Room, Melbourne, 1953
Mrs Nina Sheppard, Melbourne
Mrs I. Charters, Melbourne
Private collection, Victoria
Sotheby's, Melbourne, 22 August 1994, lot 88
Private collection, Melbourne

(ii)The artist's family, Melbourne
Dr and Mrs S.F. Phipps, Melbourne
(exhibition loan label attached verso, cat. 96)
Joshua McClelland Print Room, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne


(i) Frederick McCubbin Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1955, cat. 18 (label attached verso); touring to the National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, January–February 1956, and the National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, March 1956

(ii) Nine Portraits by Frederick McCubbin and Tom Roberts, Joshua McClelland Print Room, Melbourne, 20–30 October 1964, cat. 1
Collectors' Collections, Melbourne Grammar School, August 1969 (label attached verso)


(i)Mangan, K., Autumn Memories: A McCubbin Family Album, Georgian House, Melbourne, 1988, p. 33 (illus.)
Mackenzie, A., Frederick McCubbin,1855–1917: 'The Proff' and his art, Mannagum Press, Melbourne, 1990, pp. 86–87 (illus. pl. 22)

(ii) Mackenzie, A., Frederick McCubbin, 1855–1917: 'The Proff' and his art, Mannagum Press, Melbourne, 1990, pp. 138–139 (illus.)
 Mangan, K., Daisy Chains, War, then Jazz, Hutchinson Publishing Group (Australia) Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1984, illus. on dust jacket and opposite p. 112

Catalogue text

(i) MARY McCUBBIN, c1893 - 94

In 1889 Frederick McCubbin married Annie Lucie Moriarty at St Ignatius Church, Richmond, Melbourne. Tom Roberts was best man. McCubbin was of Scots descent, his attractive wife a lively, red-haired woman of Irish background. They had seven children. Louis (1890), Mary (1891), Alexander (1893), Hugh (1894), John (Sydney) in 1896, Nora Sheila (1898), and Kathleen (1906). Mary was their first daughter, born on 4 November 1891 when they were living at 86 Rathmines Road, Hawthorn. It was a busy year for McCubbin, who had been appointed Acting Director of the National Gallery of Victoria following George Frederick Folingsby's death on 4 January. Nevertheless, he found time to paint such significant works as The North Wind and Sunset Glow, both in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Well regarded as the bush poet of the Australian landscape with forest scenes bathed in a gentle, subaqueous light, McCubbin's works ranged from the early sentimental narratives of the hardships of the pioneers, as in The North Wind, to some of the finest Impressionist landscapes painted in Australia. He was also an outstanding portrait painter. Notable among his many portraits are J. A. Panton, Esq. M.P. 1904 (National Gallery of Victoria); companion portraits of Walter and Eliza Hall, 1913; the Hon. Alfred Deakin 1914 (commissioned by the Historic Memorials Committee for Parliament House, Canberra); and Portrait of Lady Janet Clarke 1915 (Janet Clarke Hall, University of Melbourne).

The name 'Mary' occurs a number of times in the McCubbin and Moriarty (Fred's wife's maiden name) family trees. Fred's first sister was Mary as was one of his aunts.1 Annie's mother was another Mary as were two of her sisters. It is therefore not surprising that Fred and Annie named their first daughter accordingly. Mary, the subject of our painting, lived a short life and died tragically on 30 October 1894. It was a week before her third birthday. Kathleen Mangan (née McCubbin) recalled that 'This painting hung over the bookcase in the music room at South Yarra and was sold after my father's death. My parents must have been very distressed over Mary's death because they never talked about it.'2 Her mother, however, did tell Kathleen that she had gone into a shop, leaving Mary outside in a pusher. Two fighting dogs 'knocked the pusher over and Mary fell out and her head must have hit on the cobblestones.' She died from convulsions. McCubbin captured the innocent, wide-eyed beauty of his young daughter with a moving tenderness, accentuated by the doll she holds.

1. McCubbin painted a portrait of his sister-in-law Mary Moriarty in about 1891. It was shown in Exhibition of the Works of Victorian Artists, National Gallery of Victoria, November 1891, cat. 47, at 19 guineas; and again in the Victorian Artists' Society Exhibition of May 1892, cat. 142. The portrait, Mary, is now in the Joseph Brown Collection, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
2. Mackenzie, A., Frederick McCubbin, 1855-1917: 'The Proff' and his art, Mannagum Press, Melbourne, 1990, p. 86



Kathleen, the McCubbin's last child, was born on 4 November 1906, poignantly on the birthday of their long deceased first daughter Mary's. The family home was then in Shipley Street, South Yarra, changed in late 1907 for an old colonial residence in Kensington Road with land running down to the Yarra River. It was here that McCubbin painted some of his best pictures. In addition to his portraits of friends and notables, McCubbin's wife and children featured in individual portraits and were frequently used as models for many of his paintings. On the Wallaby Track 1896, in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, McCubbin's wife was the model for the mother and the child was their son John (Sydney) born that year. Portrait of the Artist's son, Alexander, c1910 is in the Queensland Art Gallery. There are also some very fine self portraits including the life sized 1912 portrait in the Art Gallery of South Australia. Being the youngest, Kathleen was often the model in her father's paintings. In Rain and Sunshine 1910 (private collection), Kathleen is the figure in red, the standing child being Myrtle Thomas, daughter of the gardener at next door Como. For The Rabbit Burrow 1910 (private collection) the four-year-old Kathleen was model for both figures " of the small girl and dressed as a boy. While his love of children is readily felt in such works, the individual portraits of his own family blend paternal pride with the wonderment of childhood, as found in Kathleen McCubbin c1908. Chubby faced and cuddly of proportion, her pose and clasped hands contrast endearment with posed obligation - perhaps even a child-like questioning. (In later years she was not always the willing model.1) The painterly freedom of the technique gives the work added immediacy and the attachment of informality. Kathleen identified the work as having been painted in the music room of their home in Kensington Road, South Yarra, when she was two.2 Of a number of portraits McCubbin painted of his youngest child, one of the most interesting is Kathleen 1910 (private collection) seated in the old pantry at their Mt Macedon home Fontainebleau holding a doll. While the youngest is often the recipient of special favours, Kathleen must have reminded her parents very much of Mary, the child they had lost. Both Mary and Kathleen hold dolls. In Kathleen 1910 there is an added feeling of distance, the little child being very much on her own, as if lost, or as a remembrance. Such thoughts give a new perspective to McCubbin's iconic paintings of children lost in the bush.

1. Mangan, op. cit., pp. 45-46
2. Mackenzie, op. cit., p. 138