Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tom Roberts (Thanks Matt)

Who is Tom Roberts?

I have no idea.

Is he in politics? Sports? Film? Music? Art?

Is he an activist of some sort?

Well, let's go see.....


He's an artist.


I enjoy art people...not as much as political and film people, but more so than music people.

Roberts was born 9 March 1856.

He was a Pisces like my older sister Dawn, and my niece Ellie.

I'll check out the birthday website for his numerology number.

He's a 5. Dawn is a 5 too. They share the same numerology number and astrology sign. They got other stuff in common as well.

If Roberts was still alive today, his age would be equivalent to a 22 year old dog. Wow. I wonder if any dog has ever lived that long?

This website says the oldest a dog was an Australian sheep dog. She lived to the age of twenty-nine.


Baby Tom was born in England. Mommy and Daddy Roberts were both newspaper editors. They all migrated to Australia in 1869. Tom would have been about thirteen then. I wonder how well he adjusted to the move.

They ended up in Collingwood, a suburb in Melbourne. Lord Wiki says Collingwood has a gay village. I guess this is where gay people can find lots of stuff that caters to them.

I just had a horribly hypocritical, prejudice, and stupid thought. Lord Wiki said there's a club that actually bans heterosexuals. I thought...that's not right. They shouldn't be able to do that.

But why not? There are places that ban homosexuals. Right? Or they do the don't-ask-don't-tell thing. I wrote a previous post that defended America's Boy Scouts right to keep their prejudice anti-gay rules. S0 I have to defend a gay club's right to exclude heterosexuals.

Okay so yeah. I think they both have their right to be mean and exclude people. I think it's sad though.

Here's an article about it. It gives both sides of the issue. One side says the ban was put in place because people were coming to the bar to treat homosexuals like zoo animals. Look at the gay people being gay! There was a desire to create a place for homosexuals to hang out without feeling judged, watched, and ridiculed.

The other side of the argument: it a good idea to divide people like that? What if a gay person wants to go clubbing with his straight friends? Oh yeah. Sorry Jenny. Yeah, we didn't call you to go out with us because we went to that club that doesn't allow your kind.

I do think it's rude to come to a gay club just to antagonize people. But maybe the club should ban people based on their bad behavior and not on their sexual orientation.

Still again....I think they have the right to do it. But I'll be adding them to the same list I put the Boy Scouts...entities that I don't like too much.

I have totally gone off on a tangent here.

Sorry, Tom Roberts. Back to your life.

In the 1870's, Roberts worked as a photographer apprentice. I guess that would have been in his teen years.

In the evening, Roberts studied art. This was with a Swiss immigrant named Louis Buvelot.

In 1881, Roberts went to England to study art full time. He'd be about twenty-five at the time.

He studied at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. I'm betting that's a very prestigious school.

In 1884, he returned to Melbourne. Lord Wiki gives the exact address of his studio. 9 Collins Street. Lord Wiki says it was a famous artist studio, but most of it has been turned into a high rise building. The facade still remains.

When Roberts was thirty-five he got married. The lovely couple had a son together.

Roberts made some of his money by making picture frames. I guess he was good at that.

For World War I, he helped out in a hospital in England. Then he built a house in a suburb near Melbourne called Kallista. Lord Wiki says that Kallista is now known for Lyebirds. If you like Lyrebirds, come to Kallista.

Lord Wiki says Roberts was productive and happy during this time in his life. Maybe he liked Lyrebirds a lot.

Lord Wiki says Robert's two most famous paintings are Shearing the Rams and The Big Picture. He shows both the photos.

I LOVE The Big Picture. It's amazing! All the details. I can't imagine doing something like that. And of course I love it because it illustrates an important day in Australian history....the opening of the first Parliament in 1901. Out of all the Australian paintings I've seen so far, this is probably my favorite. That's the kind of art I like. I prefer realistic stuff to abstract. I like art that makes me feel like I'm there. I like art that makes me feel like I'm getting a glimpse of history.

The shearing painting is nice too. Shearing is so Australian to totally McLeod's Daughters.
I don't much like wool though. I think it's itchy.
Lord Wiki says the Shearer painting was criticized because people thought it was not high art.

Who cares?

Art snobs annoy me.

Literature snobs annoy me.

Yeah, it's nice to read classics and prestigious literary artsy stuff. But I think there's nothing wrong with reading a VC Andrews novel every so often.

Variety is the spice of life. And sometimes trash is yummy too.

Lord Wiki says Roberts had a good sense of humor. He sounds like a fun and happy guy; quite a contrast to the man I researched yesterday.

Well, I'm done with Lord Wiki.

I shall go seek out other websites.

This artist blog has an entry on Roberts. I think it's an American blog because the first sentence says, Although Tom Roberts is not widely known in the United States, he is considered a legend in Australia. It would be sad if an Australian blog said that.

The blog says there is a Tom Roberts festival every five years. Why don't they have it every year?

The blogger says that Roberts is not Australian. Why? He wasn't born there. Well, then that would make a LOT of Australians not Australian.

Since when do you have to be born in a country to have that nationality?

The blogger says Daddy Roberts died, and that's why Mommy Roberts took her child (children?) to Australia. Her brother already lived there.

In England they were middle class. In Australia they were not. They struggled.

Roberts worked long and hard hours with the photographer.

Then he did the stuff that Lord Wiki talked school in London and all that.

Eventually, he joined an artist group thing called Heidelberg School of Impressionism.

It took two years for Roberts to paint the Parliament painting that I love. The blogger says he usually did Australia bush type work, but he was tempted by the money and fame the Parliament project might bring.

He actually traveled around the world so he could get an accurate idea about each of the people he was painting.  That's pretty cool.

Sadly, things backfired on Roberts. He didn't get the fame, money, or jobs he expected. This made him depressed.

I can imagine I'd feel the same way.

I guess Roberts had ill feelings towards Australia. He moved his family to London. At this time, he didn't paint much. He was in a black mood.

In 1919, Roberts returned to Australia for a holiday. He fell back in love with his country.

The blogger linked to this website about the festival. The last one was held in April 2006. I guess the next one will be in April 2011.

It takes place in Inverell New South Wales. It's about four hours west of Coffs Harbour. I wonder why the festival is there instead of Melbourne. I'm guessing maybe Roberts spend some time in New South Wales?

Oh okay. The website explains. Roberts made many trips to Inverell to do his paintings. He used the town for inspiration.

The website has a biography page. I shall read it.

They say Roberts would no doubt be smiling down from that great studio in the sky to see his Opening of Parliament being used so widely in this centenary year to symbolise the birth of Australia's nationhood.
That's a nice thought. He worked so hard on that picture, and it's sad it didn't bring him the stuff he expected.

Roberts was influenced by an art thing called plein-air painters. It was about outdoor light...I suppose capturing it in the painting?

Lord Wiki says it's about painting outdoors. I assumed it was about painting the outdoors. But I think maybe it's more about painting WHILE outdoors. Although I guess when painting outdoors, people are painting what they see outdoors.

It seems Roberts brought this idea into Australia; and that's what became known as the Heidelberg School. I think?

Why is it called Heidelberg?

Maybe Lord Wiki will tell me.

Pretty easy answer....Heidelberg is a suburb in Melbourne. And the suburb was named after a German city.

One of German Heidelberg's claims to fame is that the earliest evidence of European human life was found there. Interesting.

Heidelberg artists did an exhibition of their work...paintings on cigar boxes. Some critics did not like that.

I think it's cool. But in these days, we're all into recycling and all that.   We have a different viewpoint than people back then.

Now I'm going to read the biography dictionary website.

Here's something cosmic. Mommy Robert's name was Matilda. Isn't it funny that she moved to a country which ended up having "Waltzing Matilda" as its natural anthem? She was probably not named after the song since it didn't yet exist.

This name website says the name Matilda has German origins. It means mighty in battle. In the 11th century there was a Queen Matilda. How did it come to mean a swag in Australia? Does anyone know?

Tom had two siblings.

In his early photographer work, Robert's job consisted of arranging backgrounds and studio sets. He also helped place the subject of the photographer. Sit here. Lift your chin up a bit. A little too the side there. Now move your hand.....
While doing the art school in London, he spent some time in Spain. He enjoyed his time there, and involved it in his later art.

An art critic named James Smith was not impressed with Robert's work. He said it was a pain to the eye. Later, Smith would be reincarnated as Simon Cowell.

Smith didn't like the whole naturalistic approach. He said, art should be of all times, not of one time, of all places, not of one place.
Roberts replied, by making art the perfect expression of one time and one place, it becomes for all time and of all places.
Art should be this. Art should be that.
What bullshit. Why can't people understand that art is different things to different people. There doesn't need to be all-encompassing shoulds and shouldn'ts.

As a writer, I've been involved with critiquing. There's a big difference between saying This didn't work for me. I think the language is choppy and it didn't seem real. I was bored and saying something like .... This writing is terrible. It's torture to read. Scenes should not include so much descriptions. Flashbacks should not be used so frequently.
Who am I to saw what should be done in writing? Some people like a lot of description. Some people like a lot of flashbacks.

Roberts loved to read.

I love to read too. I'm eagerly waiting for my new books to arrive. I'm hoping they might come today. If not that, I hope it at least arrives by the time I post this!

I think now I'm going to look at his paintings. I guess I'll just look at Google Images for now. Although maybe something there will lead me to a site that has a lot of his stuff.

This website has a painting called Slumbering Sea, Mentone. It was done in 1887. Where is Mentone? Australia?

Well, it seems there's a Mentone in Alabama. I don't think that's the one I'm looking for.

This is probably the RIGHT Mentone. It's in Victoria.

Anyway. I like the painting. I can imagine being there. Jack, Tim, and I would throw rocks into the water. Jack would soon say, I have to go to the bathroom.

I'd say. Is it an emergency, or can you wait?
Tim would stand there oblivious.
I would say. Hello? Tim? Did you hear what Jack just said.

My imagination is running away with me here.
Let's move onto another painting.

Here's one of Mosman Bay. I like it less than the other Roberts ones I've seen so far. The images are less clear. I feel less a part of the painting. I can't place myself in the story. No, wait. Maybe I can. I picture Jack sliding down the big hill in the background. He loved doing that at Hyde Park.

I like this painting of people on a ship. It's called Coming South. I wonder what the passengers are thinking about. I'm sure some of them are homesick. I'm sure some of them are seasick as well.

I'm not going to link to the sheep or Parliament picture. You can find those on Lord Wiki....if interested.

Here's a great picture of Bourke Street in Melbourne. It looks like there's a traffic jam. I wonder how traffic was dealt with back in the horse  cart days.

Okay. I've found a website which has a bunch of his paintings. It annoys me though. I find it too confusing. They make it hard to click on the paintings to get a good view.

Oh no. A Tom Roberts painting has been stolen. It was a portrait of a politician named Andrew Garren.

Speaking of portraits....I forgot. One of the websites said Roberts painting those as well. Maybe I can find some.

This website has Portrait of a Lady in a Black Hat. I wonder who that lady was.

Here's a portrait of Sir Henry Parkes. Do I know about this guy? He's supposed to be the father of Federation. I should probably add him to my list.

Anyway, I'm ready to stop looking at paintings for today. I've had my fill.

I'm going to check outside and see if my books have arrived.


  1. The gay club mentioned uses the 'no straights' selectively. A gay guy with a straight girl on his arm, won't have a problem. Six straight women out for a hen's night or an aggressive straight guy with a straight girl won't get in. Although we stopped going to such places quite a while ago, I can recall evenings being marred by groups of young girls behaving obnoxiously and at times, we did feel like we were zoo animals on display.

  2. Andrew,

    I think that's fair. I think it's fine to be selective. It's not right for people to feel like zoo animals.

  3. Hi Dina,
    Tom Roberts is one of my favorite Australian artist and i love the Heidelberg period. My favorite painting is the 'shearing the rams' as i remember my Nan and Pop having a print of it hanging in their lounge room when i was a kid and it brings back happy memories for me.

  4. Matt,

    I really loved doing these art posts. I've never been much into art, but all of this research has made me more interested.

    I told Tim that next time we go to Australia, we might have to visit an art museum.