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McCUBBIN AT MACEDON, 1901-1907
In 1901 McCubbin bought a cottage on the far side of Mount Macedon, just above the mill township of Hesket. He called the cottage 'Fontainebleau' in homage to the haunt of the Barbizon School, and setted here with his family until late 1906. If 'The Proff' had always been one of the most hospitable of the artists who had first worked together at Box Hill, his family home always attracting friends and visitors, there was a quiet sensitivity in the man and his work which now demanded isolation: 'Only away from his critical and convivial friends could he, he felt, come to grips with the essence of the bush. Only alone could he capture its spririt. ... Living for the first time in relatively isolated country with little distraction from visiting confrères, McCubbin's attitude to the bush began, gradually and subtly, to change.
'Technically, already in the last years at Brighton, he had begun moving away from a carefully worked, closely finished style of painting ... and turned his interest to the more abstract problems of colour and painterly texture. ... McCubbin certainly was not immune to the changes of emphasis painting was undergoing during this period. He was able to develop his technique in accord with a contemporary developing interest in light and colour as subjects in their own right. This was a delayed spin-off from the Impressionist revolution which had taken place in France in the 1870s and which reached Australia only gradually and in filtered waves, the return of Fox and Tucker being one of these.
'He was sensitive, too, to contemporary attitudes to his native land, particularly towards the bush as subject matter.' (A. Galbally, Frederick McCubbin, Richmond, 1981, pp.101-06)
The new lyricism of McCubbin's Macedon pictures reflects to some extent the changing attitudes to the bush in the early years of post-Federation Australia. If once seen as a hostile world to be conquered, the bush now becomes a benign environment where man is at home, an harmonious world (discovered by McCubbin in the quiet at Macedon) whose particular beauty is celebrated for itself, and which can enchant -- McCubbin's fairy pictures all date to this Macedon period.
The present picture was, not suprisingly, given its sweetly-keyed expression of a youthful 'Australia Felix', featured in Pals, the official organ of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Boy Scouts' Association, published in the 1920s. Sawing Timber was selected by James MacDonald as one of the five best works to represent his Macedon period illustrated in The Art of Frederick McCubbin, the first monograph on the artist's work published in 1916.
THE PROPERTY OF A FAMILY