Australia 1855 – 1917
oil on canvas-textured board
signed 'F McCubbin' lower right
30.5 (h) x 40.6 (w) cm
Nude study is possibly a preparatory sketch for Oliver’s Hill, Frankston (Summer idyll) (cat 35), Afterglow (Summer evening) (cat 51) or Golden sunlight (cat 62). McCubbin defined the model’s form by light rather than shadow, painting highlights on her breasts and stomach to give her torso a sheen. He only just hinted at her face, and washed in the background freely. She is depicted lying on a pillow, which emphasises her curves.
The work was probably painted during a life class at the National Gallery of Victoria’s art school, using a model provided for the students; it is unlikely that McCubbin would have employed nude models himself. However, the pose could also have been based on that in a master painting, such as Titian’s Bacchanal of the Adrians c 1518 (Prado), in which the nude in the lower-right corner is shown in a similar pose to McCubbin’s. McCubbin might equally have been inspired to paint this work by the then recently purchased Femme couchée c 1904 by Edmond-François Aman-Jean, in the National Gallery of Victoria’s collection. While the pose is different, like McCubbin’s nude Aman-Jean’s is recumbent and facing forwards with her legs bent and one arm over her head. But more than that, the two works share a natural carefreeness in the pose, and a quick, rapid application of paint.
Unlike his contemporaries Rupert Bunny, E Phillips Fox and George W Lambert, McCubbin did not paint many nudes.
His figure studies are generally portraits—either of family and friends, or commissioned. He did however paint a number of oil sketches of nudes later in life and included nudes in such paintings as Afterglow and Golden sunlight.