Whether it was landscapes, figural works, cityscapes, or portraiture, the range of subjects explored by Australian painter Tom Roberts was eclectic and far-reaching. As one of the nation’s best-known artists, his life and career are being celebrated through a major exhibition at Australia’s National Gallery.
Although painter Tom Roberts (1856-1931) was born in Dorchester, England, he would end his life having spent nearly half of it in Australia, continuously learning and coming to understand the nation’s land and the culture and people that it harbored. Working alongside Australia’s legendary Impressionist group, which included Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, and Charles Conder, Roberts “travelled widely around Australia, and particularly to sheep stations in rural New South Wales,” the museum writes.

Tom Roberts, “Charcoal Burners,” 1886, oil on canvas, 61.4 x 92.3 cm. (c) Art Gallery of Ballarat 2015

December 4 was the day the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra opened a major retrospective of the artist aptly entitled “Tom Roberts,” which will hang through March 28. In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum will host many fun family events, a list of which can be found here.

Tom Roberts, “A Break Away!,” 1891, oil on canvas, 137.3 x 167.8 cm. (c) Art Gallery of South Australia 2015

Works such as “Shearing the Rams” are typical of Roberts’ subjects/themes and style, which bear some similarities to the outstanding pictures explored by Gustave Courbet around the rural town of Ornans, France, in the 1850s. Roberts preferred places like sheep stations throughout the Australian Bush because such sites highlighted the industry (a major export), rural life, and ordinary people.  

“Tom Roberts” opened on December 4 and will be on view through March 28. To learn more, visit the National Gallery of Australia.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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