Shelling Peas c.1913 inscribed 'Shelia Fontainbleau Label : 37 SHELLING PEAS c.1913 "FOUNTAINBLEAU" MOUNT MACEDON' verso oil on canvas 51.0 x 76.0cm (20 1/16 x 29 15/16in).
PROVENANCE The artist By descent to Charles McCubbin, until 1979 Joshua McClelland Print Room, Melbourne National Mutual Life Assurance, Melbourne Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne Private collection, Melbourne
EXHIBITED The Australian Impressionists: Their Origins & Influences, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Westpac Gallery, Victorian Art Centre, Melbourne; St Neots, Double Bay, Sydney, 15 August - 16 September 1988, cat. no. 19 A Happy Life: Frederick McCubbin's Small Paintings and Oil Sketches, National Gallery of Victoria touring exhibition: City of Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Ballarat, 30 November 1991- 12 January 1992; Benalla Art Gallery, Benalla 1 February - 2 March 1992; City of Hamilton Art Gallery, Hamilton, 24 March - 21 April 1992; Mornington Peninsula Arts Centre, Mornington, 8 May - 5 July 1992; Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, 23 July - 13 September 1992; LaTrobe Valley Arts Centre, Morwell, 2-31 October 1992, cat. no. 37 Impressions of Colour: Colour in Australian Art, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, 18 August - 29 September 2012, cat. no. 8 (illus.)
LITERATURE Lauraine Diggins, Forward by Jane Clark, The Australian Impressionists: Their Origins & Influences, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, 1988, cat. no. 19 (illus.) Jane Clark, A Happy Life, Frederick McCubbin's Small Paintings and Oil Sketches, National Gallery of Victoria and the City of Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, 1991, p. 23, p.14 (illus.)
Amongst the protagonists of the Heidelberg School, Frederick McCubbin was perhaps the one who remained truest to the group's youthful aims: 'to out only the truth down, and only as much as we feel sure of seeing.' McCubbin had bought a cottage at Mount Macedon after spending Christmas holidays at Woodend. The beauty and solitude of the surrounding bush, with little distraction from visiting 'confreres', became the central and artistic focus of his life. He named the property 'Fountainebleau' after the forrest outside Paris, where Jean Francois Millet amongst others had gone to paint his plein air subjects.
Shelling Peas, painted circa 1912-13 shows his daughter Shelia (aged approximately 15) in the rather dark old fashioned kitchen of 'Fountainebleau'. It is a quiet domestic scene, illuminated by the light streaming through the window which gives the whole an intimate glow. Shelia's rounded shoulders and bent head are thoroughly engaged in her task and a contemplative air imbues the painting. A related painting Shelling Peas dated 1912, in the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria depicts a portrait of his wife Anne in a comparable domestic scene. Shelia appears in another kitchen scene painted at Fountainbleau, The Recipe (Collection of the Queensland Art Gallery) and a delightful small canvas entitled The Little Housewife shows the youngest McCubbin, Kathleen, at work in the same kitchen setting (Melbourne University Ewing collection).
The kitchen, the symbolic centre of the home and family, had much appeal to McCubbin. It featured as early as 1884, in the art school set piece Home Again (in the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria) and in Kitchen at the Old Street Bakery (in the Collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia).1
Similarly, McCubbin had ready made models at hand, seen as he "often painted his children at play in the rambling garden or posed inside the house at the piano, the dining table, or in the old kitchen".2
1 Elena Taylor, McCubbin Last Impressions: 1907 - 1917, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2009, pg. 122 2 Ann Galbally, Frederick McCubbin, Hudginson of Australia, 1981, pg. 129