This work appears surprisingly in the artist’s oeuvre, his first masterpiece after a long and conscientious apprenticeship. His old friend, artist Tom Roberts, fresh from Europe, must have played a role in its genesis, bringing firsthand news of developments there, particularly of plein air practice in Britain and on the Continent. And then there was the lively art world in the ‘melting pot’ of ‘Marvellous Melbourne’, with artists arriving from all over the world. A particular influence among them would have been the Portuguese artist, Arthur Loureiro, who arrived in Melbourne early in 1885 and was a founder and council member, with McCubbin and Roberts, of the Australian Artists’ Association in 1886. Loureiro brought to Melbourne with him a landscape he had painted at Brolles in the forest of Fontainbleau, outside Paris. That painting, with its figure of a girl standing quietly in a birch forest, could be cited as a prototype for McCubbin’s Lost. The theme of the lost child had had a long literary and artistic tradition in Australia and was still topical in the 1880s.
Text © National Gallery of Victoria, Australia