Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tom Roberts: Versatile, With a Nice Touch

Thomas William (Tom) Roberts (1856-1931) was born in England and migrated to Australia in his early teens. Thereafter, he spent time in both countries. His initial art training was informal, but in 1881-84 he studied at the Royal Academy Schools in London. This information and more can be found in his Wikipedia entry. Charley Parker recently dealt with Roberts here.

Roberts painted landscapes, genre scenes and portraits with a nice, clean touch most of the time. To me, the archetypical Roberts painting combines fairly thinly painted backgrounds and more heavily painted subjects with areas done using a broad, flat brush. It seems that around 1910 he began using a more simplified palette. Unfortunately, I can't readily locate many of examples of this new direction. In any case, I find Roberts' body of work from the late 1880s and through the 1890s quite satisfying.


A Spanish Beauty - 1883-84
Painted during his student days.

Bourke Street, West - c. 1885-86

Coming South - 1886
Sailing to Australia.

Slumbering Sea, Mentone - 1887

An Autumn Morning, Milson's Point, Sydney - 1888

Eileen - 1892

study of Lena Brach - 1893
This is the largest image I could find. I include it for readers interested in how artists work up paintings.

Grey Lady

Miss Isobel McDonald - 1895

Miss Florence Greaves - 1898

Alfred Howitt - 1900
Yes, Roberts also portrayed men.

Madame Hartl - 1909-10
This was painted when Roberts was simplifying his palette.

Hillside - 1927
The latest Roberts painting I turned up during a none-too-rigorous search.

1 comment:

Hels said...

Great images! The reason Tom Roberts' earlier paintings were more important was because he and the other Heidelberg artists were creating a brand new art era in Australia.

In 1886 Tom Roberts joined Frederick McCub­bin and Louis Abrah­ams, young men he had met while studying at the National Gallery of Victoria. They set up an art­is­ts' camp in the bush, showing the activities of ordinary rural lab­ourers a la Barbizon school. Then Arthur Streeton, Walter Withers, Frederick McCubbin and Charles Conder joined them at the camps.

By 1900, all the heavy lifting in creating unique Australian art history had been done.