Tom Roberts 1856–1931: A catalogue raisonné by Helen Topliss

Reviewed by
December 1985–January 1986, no. 77
Jim Davidson reviews 'Tom Roberts 1856–1931: A catalogue raisonné' by Helen Topliss

Tom Roberts 1856–1931: A catalogue raisonné

by Helen Topliss

Oxford University Press, Volume 1, 262 pp, 276 pp, $195.00 (set)

Tom Roberts 1856–1931: A catalogue raisonné by Helen Topliss

Reviewed by
December 1985–January 1986, no. 77

When Scholars wandered across our television screens recently, palettes in hand, many were offended by the anachronisms: busts taking artists off to Sydney, or feminist polemics leading out to a car-clogged St Kilda Road. One Summer Again was an impression of Australia’s impressionists, and had the honesty to make that plain; and the more one reads about Roberts, Streeton, and Conder, the more it becomes clear that, in addition to communicating the raw energy and exuberance, the miniseries got the essentials absolutely right. Tom Roberts was as Chris Hallam, himself a onetime Englishman and art student, depicted him: confident, given to making pronouncements, a touch humourless perhaps, but a man with a high sense of purpose who easily moved among all kinds of people at all social levels. A man of fierce intelligence, Roberts could discuss the problem of metaphor in poetry and painting with A.G. Stephens in a way that made that celebrated critic look to his laurels. And for a man who claimed he could not write, take his description of the scene of Shearing the Rams, where Roberts, standing amidst ‘piled up wool-bales’, was ‘hearing and seeing the troops come pattering into their pens’, noting ‘the subdued hum of hard, fast working and the click of the shears, the whole lit warm with the reflection of the Australian sunlight’. It is impressive enough even before he states the challenge: ‘a subject noble enough and worthy enough if I could express the meaning and spirit of strong masculine labour, the patience of the animals, and the strong human interest.’

Jim Davidson reviews 'Tom Roberts 1856–1931: A catalogue raisonné' by Helen Topliss

Tom Roberts 1856–1931: A catalogue raisonné

by Helen Topliss

Oxford University Press, Volume 1, 262 pp, 276 pp, $195.00 (set)

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