Important Australian + International Fine Art
16 August 2023


(1855 - 1917)

oil on canvas

46.0 x 58.5 cm

signed and dated lower right: F McCubbin / 1916
bears inscription on gallery label verso: Late Fred McCubbin / ‘Summer Haze’

$70,000 – $90,000

The Sedon Galleries, Melbourne (label attached verso)
Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne
Henry Krongold, Melbourne, acquired from the above in June 1989
The Estate of Paul Krongold, Melbourne

Catalogue text

Frederick McCubbin’s Summer haze, 1916, is one of the last paintings finished by the artist, alongside his striking self-portrait from the same year, now in the collection of the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA). McCubbin was becoming increasingly unwell and his health was aggravated by severe asthma which also curtailed his mobility, so the wonderfully wild acreage of his South Yarra home became the focus for his paintings. McCubbin was already famed for his evocative depictions of Australian life such as A bush burial, 1890 (Geelong Art Gallery); The Pioneers, 1904, (National Gallery of Victoria), and Violet and gold, 1911 (National Gallery of Australia); and the latter work, like Summer haze, displays the lighter palette he employed after visiting Europe for his first and only time in 1907, where the luminous artworks of J.M.W. Turner made a profound impression.
McCubbin and his wife Annie purchased a house in Mt Macedon in 1901 which they re-named ‘Fontainebleau’ and it was here that many of his larger works were painted. However, in 1905 he also rented a home in South Yarra before leaving for Europe; and on his return, McCubbin moved to nearby ‘Carlesberg’, a larger property in Kensington Road, which he retitled ‘The studio’ at outbreak of WWI due to its original Germanic name. This was a ‘charming old colonial house of stone, cool on the hottest days, perched right over the Yarra.’1 Family friend Bessie Colquhoun recalled that ‘Kensington Road had a rather wild old garden…(not) actually a garden, it was wild country, but it was very lovely … full of wild things, natural things, gums and all the things that grow out in the bush.’2 McCubbin was entranced by the property, painting many of its aspects throughout the remaining decade of his life. In Summer haze, he focuses on the lower trunks of two of the garden’s elder trees, whose edges dissolve in the crisp morning light, also seen to great effect in the larger Golden Sunlight, c.1914 (Castlemaine Art Museum and Gallery). The radiance of these paintings was achieved through a laborious process, as described by the artist’s son Louis, whereby ‘the pigment was mixed on the palette and applied with a knife... [On completion] the canvas was put in the window or out in the sun until the pigment became bone dry; it was then rubbed down with pumice-stone until the surface was smooth as glass. By this method the underneath colours would show through the over-paintings, and the effect of transparency and broken colour was accentuated.’3
Unfortunately, the stress of the disastrous war – which killed his brother and maimed one of his sons – exacerbated McCubbin’s ill health forcing him to take extended leave from his teaching position at the National Gallery Art School; but he continued creating as his youngest daughter Kathleen recalled: ‘(After taking) the short cut across to our place, across the paddocks… I would see my father on the verandah in his dressing-gown and black velvet beret, which he always put on when he went outside at that stage of his life… He was really in very poor health at this time, but he persisted and he kept on painting.’4 McCubbin’s debilitating asthma and a bout of pneumonia further weakened him and on 20 December 1917, he died from a heart attack aged sixty-two.
1. Frederick McCubbin. Letter to Tom Roberts, December 1907. Cited in: McKenzie, A., Frederick McCubbin 1855-1917: ‘The Proff’ and his art, Mannagum Press, Melbourne, 1990, p. 269
2. Bessie Colquhoun. Quoted in: ibid., p. 341
3. Louis McCubbin, Bulletin of the Art Gallery of South Australia, 1943. Cited in: Whitelaw, B., The art of Frederick McCubbin, National Gallery of Victoria, 1991, p.18 
4. Kathleen Mangan. Quoted in: McKenzie, A., Frederick McCubbin, ibid., p. 208