The North wind 1891
Frederick McCUBBIN
The North wind 1891
oil on canvas on plywood
91.9 x 152.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1941

Frederick McCubbin - The North Wind 1891

Frederick McCubbin was born in Melbourne in 1855. After studying at the National Gallery of Victoria’s School of Painting he progressed to become the master of the school and one of Australia’s most renowned artists. 

Along with Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Charles Conder, he is universally recognised for his role in the promotion of the Impressionist movement in Australian art.  Like his painting companions, McCubbin drew inspiration from the landscape and populated some of his most well-known depictions with figures that explored a national spirit through the portrayal of hardship and the family unit.  The most iconic of these works is The Pioneer completed in 1904.  As an emerging artist he had previously developed this genre in an important group of earlier works such as The North Wind.

Painted in a blue and gold palette, the North Wind is an interesting combination of academic modelling used for the articulation of the horse and cart, set against the broad, looser brushwork of the impressionist landscape. We are presented with a view of a pioneering family transporting their belongings while besieged by a menacing hot north wind.

Thanks to The Bank of America-Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project the NGV has recently been granted the opportunity to examine The North Wind as part of a year-long conservation and research project.  The opportunity provided is most welcome as very little is known about this important painting prior to it being acquired for the NGV by the Felton Bequest at a posthumous exhibition held in 1941.  One of the aims of the present conservation project is to develop knowledge of the artist’s materials and techniques and form a comprehensive understanding of the history of the painting so that its place in the collection and the artist’s oeuvre can be understood more fully. This knowledge will also help conservators undertake what will be a complex restoration to reveal the true colour and original composition as the artist had intended it to be seen and allow the return of an important work to public display.

As this project develops we will update discoveries made through historical research and analytical techniques and illustrate the slow transformation of the picture as it undergoes conservation.

Michael Varcoe-Cocks
Head of Conservation

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is proud to support the National Gallery of Victoria’s conservation of Frederick McCubbin’s The North Wind. Since the launch of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project in Asia in 2012, grants have been provided to projects in India, China, Japan and Australia. In 2012 we supported the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ conservation of The Flood in the Darling 1890 by W.C. Pigenuit. Our Art Conservation Project is a unique program that provides grants to nonprofit museums throughout the world to conserve historically or culturally significant works of art that are in danger of degeneration.

Conservation Partner
Bank of America Merrill Lynch