Australia 1855 – 1917
Shipping on the Yarra
oil on canvas-textured board
24.0 (h) x 34.0 (w) cm
In Shipping on the Yarra, McCubbin depicted the city from the south bank of the Yarra, looking east across the river towards the Melbourne skyline. What appears to be a soft wintry light is diffused into a range of pale colours evenly applied with small brushstrokes. The nineteenth-century street urinal (the small green building in the foreground) and the red of the ferry’s funnel provide strong colour notes against the purples, blues and beiges of the remainder of the work. The composition is firm and assured, with bold strong forms in the buildings in the distance.
McCubbin used to like to travel by boat. Kathleen recalled her many childhood memories of jaunts with her father:
We would leave home early and board the boat at Port Melbourne, always taking care to be among the first passengers to arrive on the pier because sometimes people in the rear would be left behind … I loved those day excursions with father. Even yet I can feel the throb of the engines beneath my feet as I stood beside him at the deck-rails, watching the white gulls in flight near the coastline and feeling the bite of salt air on my face (Mangan 1984, p 12).
The shipping on the Yarra was a theme which interested McCubbin throughout his life, and in which he showed the city as a busy lively place, suffused by light.