Frederick McCUBBIN<br/>
<em>The North wind</em> (c. 1888) <!-- (recto) --><br />

oil on canvas on plywood<br />
91.9 x 152.3 cm<br />
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br />
Felton Bequest, 1941<br />
1119-4<br />

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Frederick McCUBBIN
The North wind (c. 1888)
Media Release • 8 Dec 15

NGV reveals secrets of mystery McCubbin

Following a revelatory, year-long conservation project, the iconic Australian-impressionist era painting The North wind, c1888 by renowned painter Frederick McCubbin will be seen in a new light as it returns to public display at NGV Australia today.

Working in collaboration with scientific research centre, the Australian Synchrotron, and utilising its ability to produce light one million times brighter than the sun, researchers have imaged pigments buried underneath layers of paint to reveal secrets hidden below the surface.

These findings include the discovery of a lush and green landscape composition later replaced by McCubbin in favour of an arid landscape. This composition was painted over by McCubbin amid the centenary of settlement commemorations in 1888 and replaced by his final vision that is more representative of the emergent idea of the heroic pioneer.

A further revelation from the research has shown the signature and date inscribed on the canvas were not contemporary with the work but were applied at subsequent restoration undertaken in the early 20th century and following the artist’s death.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV said: ‘The NGV has worked with scientists at the Australian Synchrotron to advance the use of state of the art imaging technology in the visual arts, creating new research methods for art historians and conservators and producing ground-breaking results. We are grateful to the generous support of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Art Conservation Project, which enabled this research.’

Prior to entering the NGV’s collection in 1941 The North wind was subjected to significant restorations that altered the presentation of the artist’s original work. These included an attempt to clean its surface, followed by considerable over-painting of McCubbin’s original composition. Research also showed that the format of the picture had been modified and the original frame removed.

McCubbin’s The North wind will be on display at NGV Australia alongside a new, comprehensive interactive e-book detailing the research findings and conservation program presented through video interviews, text, images and Synchrotron imaging. This dedicated display will be a new feature at NGV Australia and showcase future works from the NGV collection that undergo conservation.

The e-book can also be viewed online at

This expansive conservation project has been supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project, which offers grants towards the treatment and care of important works of art around the globe.

Kevin Skelton, CEO, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said: “We’re proud to have supported the conservation of The North wind, a treasured work by one of Australia’s most cherished artists, and to see it returned to public display for the first time in over a decade.

“This is one of 85 past and present conservation projects worldwide to be funded by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project and is a further example of our global commitment to supporting the arts.”

About Frederick McCubbin
Frederick McCubbin, born 1855, was an Australian Impressionist painter who was prominent in the Heidelberg School, one of the more important periods in Australia’s visual arts history. He studied at the National Gallery’s School of Painting from 1877 with Tom Roberts, winning a number of student prizes. In 1885 McCubbin and Roberts led plein-air painting expeditions to Box Hill, Mentone and later, Heidelberg – rural areas close to Melbourne – giving birth to a distinctive school of Australian landscape painting, a characteristic of the Heidelberg School.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project