Australia 1855 – 1917
Boy flying a kite
oil on canvas
sight 48.5 (h) x 90.8 (w) cm
This is another work featuring ‘Como’, the large estate next door to the McCubbins’ house in South Yarra. The viewpoint for Boy flying a kite is believed to have been in Como’s grounds, looking towards a bend in the Yarra, from above what is now Como Park but was then swampy ground—although the whole area is now so different that it has been impossible to identify the distinctive buildings in the middle distance (McCubbin 1991, p 94).
A young boy has launched his kite on a breezy day, whilst a younger sibling, warmly dressed in pink, sits in the grass amidst yellow-flowering wattle or gorse. They are probably two of the artist’s children, Sydney and Sheila, then aged about 13 and 11. A large proportion of the picture is sky: filled with blustery updrafts and billowing clouds. The landscape is lush and green, with the gorgeous wetness of late winter or early spring, when rainfall was more plentiful in Melbourne than it is today. (Meteorological charts reveal it had rained for a fortnight in Victoria in August 1909.) The vegetation could almost be English—except of course for the mighty eucalypt, whose asymmetrical form dwarfs the figures and occupies much of the right-hand side of the canvas.
McCubbin loved all nature’s moods and, like many European and American artists of his generation, often depicted children enjoying everyday pursuits, at least partly as a metaphor of freedom and innocence.