Australia 1855 – 1917
[Collins Street, Melbourne]
oil on canvas on cardboard
signed 'F McCubbin' lower right
25.0 (h) x 35.3 (w) cm
Geelong Gallery, Victoria HP Douglass Bequest Fund, 1945
Long regarded as one of Melbourne’s most fashionable and cosmopolitan streets—the address of some of the city’s most exclusive retailers and clubs, as well as medical, financial and cultural institutions—Collins Street was the subject of a number of paintings from McCubbin’s later years, continuing his long-standing interest in urban vistas.
As one of the principal east-west thoroughfares in Robert Hoddle’s original city grid of 1837, Collins Street was at the peak of its splendour in the mid 1880s when McCubbin took up his appointment as drawing master at the National Gallery’s school. Throughout his career, he maintained an association with a number of premises and organisations located on the street (or within adjoining arcades), including Grosvenor Chambers, Athenaeum Hall, the Savage Club and the offices of the Australasian Sketcher.
Several decades after this small panel was completed, McCubbin’s daughter recalled her father’s fondness for Collins Street, having accompanied him on painting trips when he worked rapidly applying paint with a palette knife from the back seat of the family’s second-hand Renault (Mackenzie 1990, p 206). Painted in a high key palette and in short broad strokes, Collins Street shows the grand and picturesque architecture and bustling traffic along this elegant boulevard.
Collins Street was one of over 40 Australian works from the collection of Joseph Thornton Tweddle exhibited at Georges Gallery in Melbourne in 1945, at which time it was described by critic Alan McCulloch as the ‘best picture shown … a delightful little impressionist painting’, and a ‘work of great poetic charm and sensitivity’ (Argus, 27 February 1945, p 4). It was acquired from this exhibition by the Geelong Art Gallery Association, becoming the second painting by the artist to enter the Gallery’s collection after one of its most significant acquisitions to that date: his large 1890 painting, A bush burial.