Scotland 1853 – Australia 1928
A cabbage garden
[A cabbage patch] 1896
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas
Jane Sutherland, one of the first professionally trained women artists in Australia, attended the National Gallery School in Melbourne between 1871 and 1885. She shared a studio with Tom Roberts, but she deliberately avoided the masculine imagery of bushrangers, heroic male workers such as shearers, and images of pioneers. She painted women and children within a domesticated rural landscape, using the stylistic methods of her fellow male artists but without the bravura and machismo associated with some of the best known works of Roberts and Frederick McCubbin.
Jane Sutherland painted A cabbage garden in 1896 when she was 43. The colours are subtle but the light is clear and bright. The blue-green cabbages contrast with the sandy beige colour of the soil, the fence and buildings. The wheelbarrow and the stooping figure are placed to lead the eye into the painting, while the sweeping arc of the fence line directs the viewer to the far distant horizon. The figure neither dominates, nor is dominated by, the landscape.
During the 1880s, a number of Victorian artists sought to attain professional credibility for their work and to prohibit amateurs from joining the Victorian Artists Society. Jane Sutherland was the first woman elected to the governing body of this society. Despite this, she was never accepted as a serious professional artist and she priced her paintings at a tenth of the value of her male peers.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002