Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tom Roberts - Australian Impressionist

Not a great deal happened this weekend - well other than having an early Saturday morning ride with my fellow cyclist on the famous Beach Road on the edge of Port Phillip Bay, then meeting up with a client to do some weekend business negotiations. Oh, yes - then the girls had an exciting crochet night while us boys decided on a Thai dinner at the local restaurant and then back to watch a stage of the Giro Italia. Sunday morning was a late get-up to mow the lawns before a luncheon with our youngest son's girlfriend's mother (looking serious) before getting home to blog.

So you can see that we really were "light on" for blog stuff.
I decided that due to a fellow blogger saying he liked Impressionist artists, that I would extend on our Aussie Impressionist artists. Tom Roberts is one of my favorites.
As an art student in the 60s I was introduced to the paintings of Impressionist Tom Roberts. I studied art at Preston Tech before moving on to being a display assistant at Myer in the city. Some of his paintings hung on the walls of the Melbourne art gallery and our teachers took us there.

Shearing the Rams
Melbourne scene
Roberts was born in 1856 at Dorchester, England but after his father passed away, his mother and Tom migrated to Australia in 1869. They settled at the inner suburb of Collingwood where my ancestors lived.
It wasn't long after arrival he started to show promise with the brush and started studying art. Later in the 1870s he won an award for a landscape painting and in 1874 joined the National Gallery School.

From his paintings, I believe he saw the Australian landscape, particularly the bush with different eyes from past artists. His paintings took on a look of the French Impressionists and this influenced other local Melbourne artists. In particular, Fred McCubbin joined Roberts to paint at Studley Park, Kew. This was an area of preserved bushland across the river from working class Collingwood. He and McCubbin would walk along Johnston Street from where Roberts lived in Collingwood to paint in the parklands. Studley Park has memories for me also. My grandparents lived within the parklands a century later. My grandfather was a park caretaker and I would spend weekends in the biggest backyard ever.

Mentone Beach.
I know this area very well, its probably more Beaumaris and I suspect its the area where we would buy our mussels from.
Boat on the Beach - Queenscliff
Queenscliff is on the other side of the bay from Mentone. There's a ferry that runs from the tip of the Mornington Peninsula at Sorrento that goes past the heads to Queenscliff.
In 1883 Roberts took off to London and then to Spain to absorb further influences from other artists overseas. When in Spain some of these influences showed in his paintings while there. He returned back to Melbourne in 1885 to meet with Arthur Streeton (later Sir) and during 1887 they both would paint in our local area of Mentone and Beaumaris with other artist that would eventually join them two years later at Eaglemont and Heidelberg in the northern part of then rural Melbourne not far from where I grew up and spent hours riding my bike as a teenager.

Artist Camp
This is an area that I once lived close to. Over the years, Eaglemont had some of the most beautiful homes built within the Edwardian era and Art Nouveau style.

Darebin Creek
This was an area close by where I race on the indoor Velodrome on Thursday nights. Have you noticed that there's a theme happening here????

Roberts - taken as he was in the process of painting the above masterpiece
The finished painting

A Summer Morning
 I can't help feeling that Tom Roberts and I had something in common in some sort of strange way. He settled in Collingwood where my ancestors lived. He painted initially in the parklands where I played as a child with my grandparents. Later he painted in the suburb where I now live and again later with the Heidelberg school of impressionists, he painted around the hills where I used to train.

It was more than a decade ago when writing my book on Rob Roy Hill Climb, I met a man by the same name. This Tom Roberts that I interviewed talked about his motor racing career and the famous cars he owned. I touched on the subject of his name being the same as the famous artist and he told me that Roberts was actually his great Uncle.
Tom has a Gallery in Kew which is just across the Yarra river where his Great Uncle established the Heidelberg School of Artists.
Tom Roberts Gallery website

I'm sorry that not much happened this weekend to report, maybe next weekend will be more exciting.....


  1. Leon those paintings are stunning but I particularly love the first one The Shearing of the Rams.

    Managed to get out for a ride this morning only to find there was a chilly wind blowing! Made me work hard to keep warm. Diane

  2. Our ride was similar - chilly but warmed to a eally nice day of 21 degrees. Even opened the sunroof an afternnon drive.

  3. Don't apologize guys! Your weekends sound positively packed in comparison to mine!
    Thanks for the impressionist paintings from Oz artists I'm not familiar with. I'll take Boat on the beach please. Just send it to me via air mail if you'd be so kind...

  4. Thanks for the delightful insight into the life of Tom Roberts - I grew up on a farm in rural South Australia and became very familiar with "Shearing The Rams" it held pride of place in many a country homestead.
    My favourite is "A Summer Morning"
    He captured the soft morning light beautifully - I wonder who the lady in white is? perhaps his wife.

  5. Craig - I'll see if I can steal it from the gallery or wherever it is but I do know you can buy his prints on-line.
    And on special at the moment.

  6. Dianne - I think I would have to agree-Summer Morning is up there with his best.
    It maybe his wife as I believe he didn't marry until after his return from England and Spain and started painting back in Melbourne that he married.

  7. Tom Roberts was unknown to me. No more. What a talented artist!

  8. Nadege - There's more of these artists hiding away in future blogs.


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