Important Australian + International Fine Art
24 April 2024


(1855 - 1917)

oil on canvas on board

25.5 x 35.5 cm

signed lower right: F M McCubbin

$50,000 – $70,000

Esther Paterson, Melbourne, 1962
Christie's, Melbourne, 26 November 1996, lot 106
Private collection, Melbourne
Deutscher~Menzies, Melbourne, 20 April 1998, lot 35
Private collection, Melbourne
Deutscher~Menzies, Melbourne, 13 September 2006, lot 40
Private collection, Adelaide


Archives Exhibition, Victorian Artists' Society, Melbourne, November 1962, cat. 22
The Artists' Journey: Discovering the Victorian Coastline 1840 – 1910, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Victoria, 14 December 2003 – 22 February 2004 (label attached verso)


MacDonald, J., The Art of Frederick McCubbin, The Lothian Book Publishing Co. Pty Ltd., Melbourne, 1916, p. 78
Thomas, D. E. L., 'Frederick McCubbin's Winter Sunlight', Bulletin of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 1978, vol. 36, pp. 39 - 40

Catalogue text

We are grateful to Brenda Martin Thomas, wife of the late David Thomas AM, for kindly allowing us to reproduce David's writing in this catalogue entry.

Ships and docks run throughout Frederick McCubbin’s art, one of his earliest oil paintings being View of the New Dock, 1880. This is not surprising for McCubbin grew up in King Street, not far from the Melbourne docks, and the docklands were part of his teenage bread round when working for his father. Moreover, ships from faraway places would have exercised a strong appeal for a young man of McCubbin’s romantic inclination. Two years later, he painted Falls Bridge, Melbourne, 1882 (National Gallery of Victoria), the numerous masts of tall ships spread enticingly across the background. This was followed by such major paintings as The City’s Toil, 1887 (also known as Smith’s Wharf, Yarra Yarra) now in Wesfarmers collection, and Melbourne, 1888 (National Gallery of Victoria), showing the city from the busy docks. Even during his trip to England in 1907 his attention was drawn to shipping and harbours, at Naples, Genoa, and especially on the Thames. His single, most important painting from this trip was The Pool of London, 1907, which was accompanied by a number of smaller studies and related scenes – Thames Barges; Hammersmith Bridge; and Barges, Pool of London – all of the same dimensions as the painting on offer. In England, he also enjoyed seeing at first hand the paintings of his lifelong hero, J.M.W. Turner, whose increased influence on his work after his return is engagingly apparent in this and other paintings.

The shipping slips and sheds of Williamstown on Port Phillip Bay attracted many artists, especially McCubbin after his return to Australia. In January 1909, he wrote to his old friend Tom Roberts in London: ‘I have been down at Williamstown for a few pochards [rough sketches] my dear boy, just like Venice, lovely colour. Water, sky and an old ship… the older I get, the wider my interest grows in all life, colour and charm.’1 Study for ‘Williamstown Landscape’, 1909 is one of at least three known and very similar studies for the larger painting, Williamstown Landscape, 1909 formerly in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia. Our painting appears to be the first of these studies, painted en plein air directly from the motif, the application of the paint with deft strokes of the palette knife capturing the scene with a sparkling freshness. Another important Williamstown subject, The Old Ship, Williamstown, 1915 was painted from a position on the other side of the buildings shown in this appealing study.

1. Letters to Tom Roberts, vol. II, no. 18, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney.