Shearing the rams
- oil on canvas on composition board
- 122.4 × 183.3 cm
- Place/s of Execution
- Corowa, New South Wales; Melbourne, Victoria
- Accession Number
- Australian Painting
- Credit Line
- National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1932
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
- Gallery location
- Not on display
Tom Roberts’s Shearing the rams is a response to the nationalistic sentiment that developed in Australia during the late nineteenth century. It reflects the emergence of a national identity defined through heroic rural activity and the economic importance of the wool industry. The iconic painting is based on a number of preliminary sketches Roberts completed on the spot at Brocklesby Station, Corowa, New South Wales, in the late spring of 1888. He returned during the following two spring periods (shearing season) to work on the painting. Once completed, the work was exhibited in the artist’s studio in Collins Street, Melbourne.
Roberts set up his easel in the empty woolshed at Brocklesby Station, and paid young Susan Bourne (the model for the tar 'boy') and her sister sixpence apiece to kick up the dust so he could recapture the atmosphere of shearing time. What immediately impresses is the work's evident vivid realism, the snapshot, photographic composition. Convincing details, such as the sunlit gold of the bottles of oil for the whetstones, a pair of shears propped against a wall, and a tobacco pipe stuck in a man’s trousers, give the picture a real ring of truth.