COLOUR NOTE AT SOUTH YARRA, c.1910 (Also Known As 'Como Park In Flood' c.1910)

Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 April 2009

Frederick McCubbin

(1855 - 1917)
COLOUR NOTE AT SOUTH YARRA, c.1910 (Also Known As 'Como Park In Flood' c.1910)

oil on linen

34.0 x 49.5 cm

signed lower right: F McCubbin
inscribed verso: 25 Colour Note at South Yarra

$35,000 - 45,000

Joshua McClelland, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne
Thence by descent
Private collection, Sydney


Paintings by the Late Frederick McCubbin, Victorian Artists' Society's Galleries, Melbourne, 27 September – 8 October 1921, cat. 25 as 'Colour Note, South Yarra'
Paintings by Frederick McCubbin (1855 – 1917) & Louis McCubbin (1889 – 1952), Joshua McClelland's Rooms, Melbourne, 26 July – 5 August 1955, cat. 2, as 'Como Park in Flood', 1910

Catalogue text

Frederick McCubbin's move to Kensington Road, South Yarra in 1907 introduced some of the happiest and richest years in his art. Many of his finest paintings belong to this time - Winter Sunlight, 1908, in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Moonrise, 1909 in the National Gallery of Victoria, and Golden Sunlight, 1914, gifted to the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum by Dame Nellie Melba, being among the best. He had just returned from his first and only trip to England and the Continent, full of the liberating, painterly influence of J. M. W. Turner, his favourite painter since youth. That influence can be seen in these wonderfully atmospheric paintings, each in their different ways dazzlingly colourful masterpieces, capturing the feelings he expressed in a letter to his old friend Tom Roberts, 'This is the loveliest place I have ever lived. A charming old colonial house' perched right over the Yarra with three acres of garden and trees... The winding stream, gums, osiers and wattle; interspersed. The night effects; sunrise, moonrise, we can see every way.'1 The old garden led to a paddock, which ran down to the Misses Armytage's Como estate. The views over the Yarra were spectacular, whether towards Richmond as in The Coming of Spring, 1912, or the even more panoramic Flood Waters (also known as Rainbow over the Yarra), 1913. Both paintings are in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. A rainbow sometimes appeared in these later South Yarra views, a phenomenon of beauty and a metaphor of harmony. They had their genesis in numerous smaller sketches, spontaneous responses captured with a breadth of technique that gives them their special feeling of freedom and atmospheric delight. Colour Note at South Yarra is an outstanding example, related in subject both to Moonrise, 1909, and Flood Waters, 1913. Painted at the end of the McCubbin property, the building in the foreground was the old cottage where the Como gardener, a Mr. Thomas and his family lived. It was a favourite motif, which McCubbin 'adored to paint'.2 The place had a further significance, McCubbin's daughter Kathleen recalling, 'In the long grass just near this old cottage at Como, I remember seeing two head-stones engraved with the names and dates of departed pioneers.'3 Even in his later years when narrative realism gave way to 'glowing pigment and impressionistic handling'4, McCubbin retained a remembrance for those early pioneers of Melbourne whom he had memorialized in his great triptych The Pioneer, 1904-05, in the National Gallery of Victoria.

1. McCubbin to Roberts, December 1907, Letters to Tom Roberts, vol.II, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
2. Mangan, K., Daisy Chains, War, then Jazz, Hutchinson of Australia, Melbourne 1984, p. 16
3. Mangan, K., note to the writer in 1962
4. 'Exhibition of Oil Painting', Argus, 27 September 1921, p. 9