Collection Online
Coming South
oil on canvas
63.5 × 52.2 cm
Place/s of Execution
Melbourne, Victoria
inscribed in black paint l.r.: Tom Roberts - 1886 -
inscribed in black paint l.l.: s.s. LUSITANIA
Accession Number
Australian Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Colonel Aubrey H. L. Gibson (Rtd) in memory of John and Anne Gibson, settlers (1887), 1967
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
Gallery location
Gallery 4
Ground Level, NGV Australia
Subjects (general)
Human Figures Marines and Seascapes Travel
Subjects (specific)
colonials (people) decks (watercraft components) immigrants immigration journeys nautical rigging passenger vessels spars (watercraft components)
Australian Impressionism Heidelberg School

Coming South was painted after Roberts’s return from four years’ study in Europe, including a number of years at the Royal Academy, London. The work’s light, bright palette owes more to his time in Spain, however, than to his studies made in England. Deck scenes such as this, with their complex arrangements of masts, rigging and funnels provided wonderful compositional opportunities for artists, as well as the chance for psychological observation, as seen here in the body language and facial expressions of the passengers. Coming South is also a celebration of the migrant experience, and as such is Roberts’s first exploration of one of the great themes of Australian life.


The frame is representative of a popular cassetta style used extensively by Thallon in the years following the middle 1880s.2 There is some ambiguity about the originality of this frame for the painting; it carries two Thallon labels of the same address but in different styles, suggesting the frame was in the workshop more than once. Another label associates the frame with a former owner but it seems likely this is the first framing of the painting. The frame forms an interesting companion to the near identical frame on Roberts’ Slumbering sea, Mentone, (A12-1980) one year later, and it is not unreasonable to think it was a choice of the artist following his return in 1885 from Europe, where frames in this form had gained popularity.


1 Hilary Maddocks, ‘Picture Framemakers in Melbourne c. 1860–1930’ in vol. 1, Frames, Melbourne Journal of Technical Studies in Art, University of Melbourne Conservation Service, 1999.

2 A frame similar to the one on Coming South is found on Roberts’ portrait Annie Evans, c. 1885, in the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.

J. & T. Thallon
95 Collins Street East, Melbourne

The frame uses composition decorative elements on a wooden chassis. The torus ornament is conventional imbricated laurel leaves and berries, cross-banded at the centres and corners. Originally, all the surfaces were oil gilded except for the taenia and the slip, which appear to have been water gilded, the taenia burnished.


The original gilding had been covered with gold coloured paint and toned with a grey paint layer in a previous restoration. The frame was restored in a more sympathetic manner in 1997.

95.5 x 82.2 x 10.6 cm; sight 62.7 x 49.4 cm