Collection Online

The pioneer
1904

Artist/s name
Medium
oil on canvas
Measurements
225.0 x 295.7 cm
Place/s of Execution
Mount Macedon, Victoria
Accession Number
253-2
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
About the work

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.

Colourmen

Colourman
WINSOR & NEWTON / COLE
Location
Centre reverse of canvas
Transcription
WINSOR & NEWTON/..../E.W.COLE,/..../....STREET./MELBOURNE.
Medium
Ink stamp
More information
National Portrait Gallery

Frame

Frederick McCUBBIN
The pioneer 1904
Framemaker
John Thallon
Melbourne
Date
(1904)
Materials

The frame is made up from two planks of oak butted together to form a wide, bevelled face and a long, straight working edge. The rebate is formed by the addition of pine strips. The basic profile formed by this construction is held together with screws and re-enforced with a series of stacked blocks. The corners are mitred and use two large dowel pins and a tie bolt through the corner into a recessed nut to secure the structure. The two vertical braces which divide the outer frame to form the triptych are made from an oak face, with pine used to extend the rebate. They are let into the rebate of the outer frame, top and bottom, and secured with screws. The surface of the frame was originally gilded, most likely directly to the oak. It appears as such in an early photograph of the framed painting.1 The working edge is stained or painted dark brown.

Condition

The frame has been re-surfaced in the past with false gold and given a surface coating (probably shellac). The original slips have been lost and replicas, which follow the form of those in the early photograph, were made in 1985. These were gilded in 2002. The early photograph shows very distinct junctions between the leaves used in the gilding. The current surface presents a much more solid face.

Dimensions
269.0 x 509.0 x 12.0 cm
Frederick McCUBBIN
The pioneer 1904 Frederick McCUBBIN
The pioneer 1904
About

The frame is one of three original framings of works by the artist in the collection. It was returned to the painting in 1985 after being located in storage.2 It represents a style of framing which draws on the Arts and Crafts movement, originally presenting a wide, flat surface of gilded oak. The proportion and angle of the bevel can be compared to the frame on John Longstaff’s Gippsland, Sunday night, February 20th, 1898 (48-2), though the construction of the latter is simpler, using oak veneer and leaving the surface stained dark. The attribution of the frame on The pioneer to Thallon is based on the association between the frame maker and the artist, the style of the frame, the method of construction and the idea that the company was one of the few able to take on a project of this scale at the time. Thallon’s ledger of 1888–1903 has numerous thumbnail sketches for frames using this profile. A very similar profile is in the ledger for a Miss Moore, 1897– Dec. 21, 1 frame 19x13R. This one is annotated ‘oak gilt’, which corresponds with the finish on The Pioneer frame. A precedent for this frame appears in the ledger for 10 August (1893) – McCubbin: 1 frame 6ft 3ft. R, 3-15 – with a nearly identical profile sketch.

Notes

1 The painting is shown in this frame in The Illustrated Catalogue of the National Gallery of Victoria, 1908 and is reproduced in full in Australia to-day, 1/12/1909, p77.

2 The frame was identified in storage by Jennifer Phipps in 1984.

The painting was on display in only the slip frames in the McCubbin retrospective at the NGV in 1955.