An image of outdoor country life, Shearing shed, Newstead shows sheep yards with a hessian-shaded corrugated iron shearing shed, freshly shorn sheep, a post-and-rail fence, a stand of eucalypts and a cloud of hot dust, viewed through the all-pervasive glare of the Australian midday sun. A bank of brilliant white cumulus clouds floats in the bright blue sky.
Working rapidly, Tom Roberts applied his paint thinly in the foreground, with the texture of the wood panel clearly visible through the paint. He used expressive marks to depict the trunks and leaves of the trees, applying his paint more thickly to depict the dense blue sky, with scumbled impasto to create the mass of white clouds.
Roberts was Australia’s foremost artist in the late nineteenth century. His works depicting strong, athletic male settlers at work on the land are some of the most well-known and much-loved images in Australian art—emblems of the pioneering spirit and of progress.
Like other works that Roberts painted at Duncan Anderson’s property, Newstead, near Inverell, Shearing shed, Newstead is a powerful image of a woolshed and sheep. But, more than this, it is a painting of light and heat and dust—the glare on the roof of the shed, the dust rising from the parched ground of the high-summer landscape.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014