I believe that Tom Roberts’ work represents a turning point in the history of Australian painting. It seems that the earliest artwork depicting this young country was essentially produced by artists superimposing their own English pastoral vision on the Australian landscape. ‘We need more elms!’ They cried. ‘What are those strange looking animals?’
Roberts was part of a generation of painters who truly grew up in the Australian landscape. He, and most notably Frederick McCubbin found a way to describe Australia on its own terms. The yellows and dusty browns of the land, the warm earth and blue skies- these were the marks that made the viewing audience say ‘Yes, this is us.’
When it was shown in 1890, Shearing The Rams was a successful work, and even today holds a place in Australia’s cultural identity. We live in a brilliantly multicultural society, and one that predominantly resides in cities; yet this notion of an agricultural past, a rough-hewn, dusty existence in the outback still captures the Australian imagination.
You can read more information on Tom Roberts and his work here. Thanks for visiting Sunday ink!