The pioneer

The pioneer

Artist/s name
Frederick McCUBBIN

oil on canvas
225.0 x 295.7 cm
Place/s of Execution
Mount Macedon, Victoria
Accession Number
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1906
Gallery Location
Gallery 6
Level 2, NGV Australia

McCubbin’s monumental canvas The Pioneer reflects the self-conscious nationalism of the years immediately following Federation. Each panel is ‘read’ to link the progress of the toil of this land across time. The first panel shows a pioneering couple in their new bush environment. The man is lighting a fire to boil the ‘billy’ while the woman contemplates their future life. The second panel shows the couple several years later; the woman holds a baby, land has been cleared and a small house has been built. In the final panel a bushman discovers a grave and in the background, a city begins to emerge. It is uncertain who has died and whether the male figure is the pioneer, his son or a stranger.

By presenting his painting across three panels – the triptych format for traditional religious art – McCubbin has elevated the status of the pioneer within Australian art history.

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