Roberts’ portraits the ‘selfies’ of their day

With her huge blue eyes, plump rose-kissed cheeks and a tumble of
golden curls spilling over her fashionable fox-fur trimmed coat, Lily
Stirling is the perfect face of a beautiful new nation.

Born in Melbourne’s Lonsdale Street, Lily was about six years
old when her father, a physician friend of prominent Australian artist
Tom Roberts, commissioned her portrait in 1890. Roberts wrote cheeky
ditties of painting children, “… I’ve painted kids in every pose,
A’kissing their mammie or smelling a rose …”

Many of Roberts’ finest portraits are showcased at the blockbuster Tom Roberts exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia, on until March 28 in Canberra.

To read more about artist Tom Roberts’ portraits, click here.  

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mussels and brisket: eating Melbourne this week

It’s been a good week for eating in Melbourne, and I checked out the new Marion wine bar, by chef-restaurateur Andrew McConnell in happening Gertrude St, Fitzroy. How’s that for a minimalist menu? My pick is the mussels, who are enjoying a renaissance in the food world, and nduja, a spicy Italian sausage that’s crumbled onto the dish.

On the opposite side of the city (and the other side of life), it was all about smoke-pit masters at the new San Antone Texan BBQ restaurant in Crown Melbourne. Vegetarians, please look away, the beef brisket wins the day.

This week’s Takeoff column in Sydney’s Sun-Herald also heads offshore to Singapore to check out the new Hotel Vagabond, by designer Jacques Garcia, who won my heart for his spectacular, three-year renovation of Marrakech’s grand dame, La Mamounia.

The Takeoff news column is published every Sunday in the Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.

Tom Roberts’ cigar box lids a touchstone of Australian impressionism

I recently wrote a couple of pieces on one of Australia’s leading artists, Tom Roberts, and was surprised to find the lengths that he travelled in Australia during his career, from the 1870s till his death in 1931. Not only did he criss-cross from his birthplace in England to his eventual homeland in Australia, but he also went bush, painting up in the Torres Strait, in outback NSW and in the far south of Tasmania.

One of the pioneers of Australia’s plein-air landscape paintings, he would set off on the weekends with fellow artists to the ends of Melbourne’s rail, to camp at Box Hill and Mentone for a few days’ painting. There are more shopping malls and beach boxes at these mid-city suburbs today, so we should be thankful he documented the times when European settlers were still eking out a home amongst the scrublands.

“Think of artist Tom Roberts and you’ll probably recall grand works: his muscular Shearing the Rams, painted in 1890, is more than six feet long (183 centimetres). The Big Picture, commemorating the opening of Parliament, is a “17-foot Frankenstein”.

However, Roberts’ small paintings, known as 9 by 5s, cemented
his position as one of the nation’s eminent artists and along the way
created a new school – Australian impressionism.”

Click here here to read the full story (and to see pictures!)

Tom Roberts is on at the National Gallery of Australia until March 28.
nga.gov.au/Roberts. Tickets are on sale through Ticketek