Tom Roberts is arguably one of Australia’s most loved artists. He was born in 1856 in Dorchester, England. Following his father’s death, in 1869, Tom migrated to Melbourne, where he studied at the Collingwood and Carlton ‘Artisans’ Schools of Design’ and the ‘National Gallery School’. He was awarded a prize for landscape by Louis Buvelot and Eugene Von Guerard at the Carlton ‘Artisan’s School of Design’. Photographer’s assistant by day, art student by night, Roberts befriended other artists who are now considered very prominent painters in Australian art history, such as Frederick McCubbin.
Roberts returned to England to study at the ‘Royal Academy Schools’ in 1881. He later toured Spain, where he was introduced to Impressionism and Plein Air painting. This impressionistic influence instigated his Heidelberg and Box Hill excursions, where he painted impressions of the Australian landscape, capturing its light, heat and spaces.
Roberts was an influential landscape painter. He worked alongside Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, and Charles Conder, to form the key members of the ‘Heidelberg School of Impressionism’. His work has impacted many later artists including Arthur Boyd, Lloyd Rees, and Fred Williams. The ‘9 by 5 Impression Exhibition’ in Melbourne was organised by Roberts. This exhibition displayed impressions of rural and urban life painted on cigar box lids. The show garnered negative reviews from orthodox critics, yet marked a pioneering movement in Australian art.
Some of Robert’s major works include “The Golden Fleece, Sheering the Rams” and “A Breakaway!”. These were created when he travelled extensively throughout rural Australia visiting sheep stations.
Today, Tom Roberts is one of Australia’s best-known artists. His work “Miss Minna Simpson” (1886) was auctioned at ‘Menzies’ for a record breaking $976,000 in 2014.
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