La Favorita c.1889 La Favorita brand stamp verso oil on cedar panel (cigar box lid) 23.6 x 14.5cm (9 5/16 x 5 11/16in).
PROVENANCE Private collection Australian Historical and Contemporary Paintings, Drawings and Prints, Christie Manson & Woods, Melbourne, 20 March 1978, lot 80 as 'Study of a Lady in a Long Red Dress' Anthony Walgrave-Knight, Melbourne Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne Private Collection, Melbourne
EXHIBITED The 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition, August 1889, Buxton Rooms, Melbourne, no. 171 appears to be 'La Favorita' The Australian Impressionists: Their Origins & Influences, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Westpac Gallery Victorian Art Centre, Melbourne, then St. Neots, Double Bay, 15 August - 16 September 1988, cat no 7 Impressions: Painting Light and Life, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 25 November 2011 - 4 March 2012 Impressions of Colour: Colour in Australian Art, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, 18 August - 29 September 2012, cat. no. 1 (illus.)
LITERATURE The Age, 17 August 1889, p. 15 Helen Topliss, Tom Roberts 1856-1931: A Catalogue Raisonne, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1985, Vol. 1, Pg. 111, cat. 141, Vol. 2, pl. 66 (illus.) Lauraine Diggins, Forward by Jane Clark, The Australian Impressionists: Their Origins & Influences, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, 1988, cat. no. 7 (illus.) Sarah Engledow, Impressions: Paintings Light and Life, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, November 2011, pp. 50-51 Sarah Engledow, 'Beguiling Impressions', Portrait, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, February - May 2012, pg.9 (illus.)
Thirteen year old Tom Roberts emigrated to Melbourne from Dorchester, England in 1869 and attended the National Gallery School of Art in 1874. In 1881 he departed for London where he enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools; visited Paris; toured Spain with John Peter Russell; and, in 1885, arrived home in Melbourne 'primed with whatever was the latest in art.'
Roberts' overseas experience, his energy and ambition, had a somewhat catalytic effect on the professional 'art life' of the city. Not long after his return, he established the first semi-permanent plein air artists' camp at Box Hill, with McCubbin and Louis Abrahams. In April 1888 he moved into the new purpose-built studios in fashionable Collins Street East Grosvenor Chambers where he painted portraits, instigated artistic conversaziones and helped to organise the Victoria Artists' Society. Roberts was also integral in organising the famed '9 by 5' Impressionist Exhibition which was held in Buxton's Rooms in Swanston Street in 1889 and focused on capturing momentary effects of light and promoted the impression of colour over finished form.
The present painting "La Favorita is a vignette of a shadowy seniorita , with red dress and hair ornament. Spain had been a revelation to Roberts. La Favorita, an opera by Donizetti, premiered in Europe in 1840 and in South Australia in 1873. La Favorita was also a brand of Cuban cigars available in Melbourne at the time. All these factors casually cohere in this modest painting on a cigar box lid."1
1 Sarah Engledow, 'Beguiling Impressions', Portrait, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, February - May 2012, pg.9