(At the Estate of Madame Pfund, Mount Macedon)
- Thomas Clark
- (At the Estate of Madame Pfund, Mount Macedon)
- watercolour on paper
- 19 x 27.5 cm
signed lower left: T C
The Estate of G. Page Cooper, Melbourne Town Hall, July 1936
Thomas Clark is a rather elusive figure. He is said to have been born in London in 1814 and worked as drawing master at the Birmingham School of Design, before arriving in Melbourne in late 1852 where he remained until his death in 1883. He established himself as a landscape painter, although was far from a prolific artist, and was the first master of the National Gallery School of Design from 1870–76, a time when Fred McCubbin and Tom Roberts were students.
Clark came to Australia informed of current English painting trends and Daniel McOwan remarks that "it is this Englishness that differentiates Clark, one of the most important and possibly most neglected of the first rank of colonial painters in Australia. The comparative rarity of his work, so much of which remains in Western Victoria where his best work was done, has meant he has until recently never received the attention he truly deserves.” (in conversation with Daniel McOwan, 2017)
Whilst many of his artworks explore nature in terms of sublime wilderness, this monochrome watercolour depicts a landscape bearing the taming marks of civilisation, with Mount Macedon looming in the background, a misty mysterious presence against the sunlit ferns in the foreground. It is likely this work was intended as a gift to Madame Pfund, a known supporter of the arts, being an important patron of Tom Roberts, perhaps after a visit by Clark to The Knoll on Mount Macedon Road (now Craignair).
Madame Elise Pfund (1833–1921) was the wife of James Pfund, the architect and Victorian Surveyor-General. In 1867 Elise Pfund established Oberwyl, a highly regarded girls’ private school in St Kilda, which continued to operate until 1931. The school was named after her home village in Switzerland, and the institution gained a reputation for its French culture.
The provenance of this work is notable, being sold at the Estate of G. Page Cooper in 1936 (George Page Cooper 1893 – 1967, an avid art collector in Melbourne) and acquired by Joshua McClelland, who was present at the sale at the Melbourne Town Hall, reporting on the event for the Argus on 10 July 1936. Joshua McClelland established his successful gallery in Little Collins Street, Melbourne in 1927, which continued as the Joshua McClelland Print Room for many decades.