The Artists

Frederick McCubbin


Australia 1855 - 1917

oil on canvas, 61.5 x 92.5 cm
Collection: National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased with the assistance of a special grant
from the Government of Victoria 1979

The First Federal Parliament of Australia was officially opened by The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York on 9 May 1901.

The City of Melbourne was decorated with arches and banners and at night many buildings, including Flinders Street Station were lit with thousands of decorative lights.

Princes Bridge was also decorated with a colonnade and triumphal arch, designed by Desbrowe Annear, under which, the Cyclopedia of Victoria, 1903 notes ' the Mayor and the Corporation officially welcomed the royal couple and offered them the freedom of the city'.

The arch was described in The Argus, 7 May 1901, as decorated with symbolic trophies showing 'the Commonwealth, here typified by the galley named 'Austral', propelled by the labelled oars of the six federated states and won for the people today. Above the arch tower the galley masts, with the Royal Standard of England as the mainsail on which the Commonwealth relies'.

This work was completed around 1908, from a small oil sketch that McCubbin produced at the time of the celebrations in 1901. It shows the strong influence of J.M.W.Turner on McCubbin's work at this time, and this influence would have been reinforced after McCubbin's viewing of Turner's works in The Tate, during his visit to London in 1907.

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Left: Arthur Streeton - Above Us The Great Grave Sky, 1890
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

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