Frederick McCubbin / Australia 1855–1917 / The recipe 1914 / Oil on canvas / 66.2 x 41cm / Purchased 1951 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Frederick McCubbin
The recipe 1914

Not Currently on Display

The recipe depicts Frederick McCubbin’s second youngest daughter, Sheila, reading a recipe card in the pantry of Fontainbleu, the family’s home at Mt Macedon in Victoria. 1 According to McCubbin’s youngest daughter Kathleen, the work would have been painted during the family’s summer vacation. 2

‘The painting is not a portrait of Sheila, but a portrayal of the domestic interior she inhabits, her own private universe. The theme was the mainspring of Edwardian painting, which McCubbin knew from London. It is McCubbin’s choice of subject that reveals the influence of his 1907 trip there, as well as his brushwork, feathery in parts, burnished in others.’ 3


1. Andrew MacKenzie. Frederick McCubbin 1855–1917: “The Proff” and his art. Mannagum Press, Lilydale, Vic., 1990, p.168.
2. Kathleen Mangan, quoted in Andrew MacKenzie, p.186.
3. Samantha Littley. ‘McCubbin: Last Impressions 1907–17: The recipe‘, National Gallery of Australia,<>, accessed August 2020.

Frederick McCubbin was born in Melbourne in 1855, the son of a baker who had recently emigrated to Australia from England.

When he left school in 1869 at the age of fourteen McCubbin began work in a solicitor’s office, his father hoping that he would make law his career. McCubbin however spent most of his time making model theatres until his father found out and sent him to work at the family bakery.

The next year McCubbin began studying drawing at night at the Artisans’ School of Design at Carlton, where his teacher was Thomas Clark. When Clark became drawing master at the Melbourne National Gallery School, McCubbin enrolled there.

Recognizing his son’s determination to become an artist, McCubbin senior apprenticed him to a coach-maker where he learnt to paint emblematic and decorative designs. This apprenticeship ended in 1875 and McCubbin enrolled fulltime at the Gallery School, studying painting under Eugen von Guerard. McCubbin found von Guerard’s teaching uninspiring as he expected students only to copy pictures in the Gallery’s collection.

On the death of his father in 1876, McCubbin had to leave his studies to work in the family business. He continued to study painting at night at the Gallery School where he formed a friendship with fellow student, Tom Roberts.

Discussion Questions

The recipe captures a leisure moment where Sheila is preparing to cook something from a recipe. Compare this painting with others in ‘Roy and Matilda: The Mysterious Music’ to discuss everyday activities from the past.

Do people still participate in these activities today?  Discuss your ideas.




Do you have a favourite family recipe or food that you enjoy cooking or eating? Make a list of each person’s favourite dish and see how many differences or similarities there are. Which one is the most popular? Investigate some common dishes or recipes from the era of this painting.

Assemble four or five objects from a recipe and place these in a bowl or on a flat surface. Create a still life drawing or painting that captures these objects. Alternatively, take a photo of the still life assemblage and use different effects to alter the look of the image.