Tom Roberts' cigar box lids a touchstone of Australian impressionism

I recently wrote a couple of pieces on one of Australia's leading artists, Tom Roberts, and was surprised to find the lengths that he travelled in Australia during his career, from the 1870s till his death in 1931. Not only did he criss-cross from his birthplace in England to his eventual homeland in Australia, but he also went bush, painting up in the Torres Strait, in outback NSW and in the far south of Tasmania.

One of the pioneers of Australia's plein-air landscape paintings, he would set off on the weekends with fellow artists to the ends of Melbourne's rail, to camp at Box Hill and Mentone for a few days' painting. There are more shopping malls and beach boxes at these mid-city suburbs today, so we should be thankful he documented the times when European settlers were still eking out a home amongst the scrublands.

"Think of artist Tom Roberts and you'll probably recall grand works: his muscular Shearing the Rams, painted in 1890, is more than six feet long (183 centimetres). The Big Picture, commemorating the opening of Parliament, is a "17-foot Frankenstein".

However, Roberts' small paintings, known as 9 by 5s, cemented his position as one of the nation's eminent artists and along the way created a new school – Australian impressionism."

Click here here to read the full story (and to see pictures!)
Tom Roberts is on at the National Gallery of Australia until March 28.
nga.gov.au/Roberts. Tickets are on sale through Ticketek


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