Tom Roberts Shearing the rams 1890 (detail). Oil on canvas on composition board. 122.4 x 183.3 cm; 170 x 230.4 x 9.5 cm (framed). National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Felton Bequest, 1932.
AGWA will be home for the next few months to one of Australia’s iconic colonial-era paintings. Tom Roberts’ Shearing the Rams will be on loan from the National Gallery of Victoria until late July, in return for the loan of one of AGWA’s much-loved paintings, Droving into the light, which will be a feature of a NGV exhibition focussing on Hans and Nora Heysen.
Shearing the Rams will hang alongside AGWA’s own Down on his luck by Frederick McCubbin, and will give you a rare opportunity to see these two great nationalistic narrative paintings side-by-side. Both works take rural subject matter as the starting point for their images of Australian identity, but Roberts presents a positive vision of the pastoral industry, far removed from McCubbin’s image of a struggling pioneer.
Roberts based his painting on sketches made in a shearing shed in country New South Wales. The close observation of details and atmospheric effects, together with the sense of this being a snapshot of a fleeting moment, gives the painting an aura of ‘truth’, which has helped to secure its popularity for many generations. It is a great example of Roberts’ statement that if art is “the perfect expression of one time and place, it becomes art for all time and of all places”.
Learn more about this work at the NGV website HERE