Tom ROBERTS, The quarry, Maria Island Enlarge 1 /1


Dorchester, England 1856 – Kallista, Victoria, Australia 1931

  • Australia from 1869
  • England, Europe 1881- 85, 1903-23

The quarry, Maria Island 1926 Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas Support: canvas

Primary Insc: signed and dated , l.l., oil "Tom Roberts 1926"
Dimensions: 61.0 h x 50.5 w cm framed (overall) 82.8 h x 72.8 w x 8.4 d cm
Acknowledgement: The Oscar Paul Collection, Gift of Henriette von Dallwitz and of Richard Paul in honour of his father 1965
Accession No: NGA 65.68

In February and March of 1926 Tom Roberts spent six weeks painting in Tasmania. During this period he visited Maria Island, a former penal station and mining township located across the Mercury Passage off the east coast of the main island.

The quarry, Maria Island is a late example of Roberts’s depiction of human labour on the land. This is a narrative landscape filled with anticipation. Roberts presents an active mine in the heat of the midday sun–a flash of earth beneath clear blue sky. Careful geometric balance of the composition accentuates the dramatic vertical drop and sheer size of the quarry. The sweeping precipice is counterbalanced by opposing triangular masses of rock and sky. Dwarfed within this scene and disguised by the colours and tones of their environment, eight miners work the quarry. Their dangerous activity of blasting the stone is heightened by the scale of the limestone cliffs.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra