Literature

“The Bare Belled Ewe”

The shearers’ song “Click Go the Shears” and the 1890 Tom Roberts painting Shearing the Rams have much in common. Despite their present-day acceptance as cultural icons it was not always the case, particularly for the Roberts painting. The critic in the Argus in Melbourne, writing apparently on behalf of the National Art Gallery, which had chosen not to buy the painting, was profoundly disturbed by the artist’s choice of subject: The smack of provinciality is as exceptionable and as distinctly a note of inferiority in art as in society … The literal fact must pass through a transforming medium…

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