Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 November 2007

Frederick McCubbin

(1855 - 1917)

oil on canvas

52.0 x 76.5 cm

signed lower right: F. McCubbin.
signed, dated and inscribed with title verso: Bowl of Flowers/ Fred McCubbin/ c.1908
original Thallon frame (label attached verso)

$120,000 - $150,000
Sold for $138,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 3 - 29 November 2007, Melbourne

By descent through the artist's family until 1955
Joshua McClelland Print Room, Melbourne, July 1955
Private collection, Melbourne
F. Behan collection, Melbourne


Exhibition of Paintings by Frederick McCubbin and Louis McCubbin, Joshua McClelland Print Room, Melbourne, July 1955, cat.1


Shore, A., 'This one's her choice', The Argus, Melbourne, 27 July 1955, p.8 (illus.)

Catalogue text

Bowl of Flowers is a beautiful and rare work in Frederick McCubbin's oeuvre, being the only known example of a flower subject painted in his rich, late style. McCubbin completed several still life paintings during his student years at the National Gallery School, including Tea Pot on the Hob (private collection, Melbourne) and Study of a Gallipot. The latter, when shown in the Twelfth Exhibition of the Victorian Academy of Arts in March 1882, drew a comment from The Argus reviewer, who mentioned the artist addressing 'himself in all humility to the "Study of a Gallipot" with entire success...'.1 A few years later, in 1884, McCubbin gave, as a wedding present, the oil Vase of Roses, of the same date, now in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Another delightful painting in the same collection, Still Life of Whisterlerian influence and dating from the late 1880s, features chrysanthemums and honesty in a tall, elegant vase. On a less elevated plane is Breakfast Still LifeĀ 1886, the subject of the simple repast including bread, cheese and an apple. Over the many years following, McCubbin devoted himself to large, narrative paintings of the toils of the pioneers, the bush at Macedon, city scenes, and landscapes of South Yarra. It was not until his return from England in 1907 that he turned again to the subject of flowers, as in this painting. This was probably stimulated by the flowers in the old garden of their home in Kensington Road, South Yarra, where the McCubbin family settled in late 1907. McCubbin's enthusiasm for the place and its three acres of garden, spilled over in a letter he wrote to Tom Roberts, describing it as 'the loveliest place I have ever lived...'.2 His daughter Kathleen recalled,'...our garden had its rewards, especially in the springtime when the fruit-trees blossomed and the first jonquils and daffodils flowered in the long grass down the hillside. What a joyous sight that was...'.3

Allied to this is the stylistic change McCubbin's painting was undergoing, becoming broader in technique, part influenced by the Old Masters he had seen on his recent trip. This is readily apparent in Bowl of Flowers, the paint applied freely with square edged brushes and palette knives, all handled with a marvellous sense of bravura. Full of dash and verve, its freedom of form and colour one associates more with abstract art, showing just how advanced McCubbin was for his time.

1. Argus, Melbourne, 25 March 1882, p.13
2. Frederick McCubbin to Tom Roberts, from 42 Kensington Road, South Yarra, [December 1907], Letters to Tom Roberts, vol. II, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
3. Mangan, Kathleen, Daisy Chains, War, then Jazz, Hutchinson of Australia, Melbourne,1984, p.25

David Thomas