The Artist's Garden, South Yarra depicts McCubbin's backyard at his home Carlsberg, a property that overlooked the Yarra River and which he painted at until his death in 1917. It was here in particular that "McCubbin continued to produce paintings of a private nature and connected with his domestic environment. Following his return from overseas he went with his family to live at 42 Kensington Road, South Yarra, a property with three acres of garden extending to the banks of the Yarra River. His new colonial house and gardens with its views across the river towards Richmond and Burnley provided him with an array of subjects.
McCubbin's vision of the landscape as a place of natural innocence found expression in these works. Having once completed a painting he judged as successful it was quite common for him to paint a number of works on the same theme: numerous versions of the old gardener's cottage on the neighboring Como estate and several versions of the fence and trees in the back garden." (B Whitelaw, The Art of Frederick McCubbin, Melbourne, 1991, p.18)
It was on McCubbin's one and only trip to Europe in 1907 that he finally saw the work of British artist J M W Turner, an artist he had long admired. He was mesmerised by the great artist's technique and rendition of light. He wrote of Turner's paintings to his wife Annie, "they are mostly unfinished but they are divine - such dreams of colour - a dozen of them are like pearls - no theatrical effect but mist and cloud and sea and land drenched in light - there is no master like him" (F McCubbin quoted in A Galbally, Frederick McCubbin, Melbourne, 1981, p.132)
In The Artist's Garden, South Yarra, the influence of both Turner and Monet is abundantly evident. "His experience of the work of the European masters increased all the more his sensitivity to light and colour, and also his rapport with the Australian landscape of his immediate environment. He came back with a renewed enthusiasm to paint the city, the nearby bush, his back-garden, in fact the familiar world that he had no need to travel great distances to find. Inspired by the work of Turner, his technique of painting changed towards greater fragmentation of the surface, blending forms together in a way that emphasised the permeation of the landscape by light and colour. The allegorical themes were left behind as McCubbin now partook in the unrestrained joy of pure landscape painting. When he died McCubbin was one of the very few Australian painters who found an exalted resolution of vision that progressed with age, so that some of his greatest paintings were made in the last ten years of his life. He was not merely a genius of youth, but accumulated inspiration that came to a spirit which waited." (B Pearce, A Century of Australian Landscape, Sydney, 1983, p.57)