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
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
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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