What the little girl saw in the bush


Frederick McCubbin
born Australia, 1855

What the little girl saw in the bush  1904
Oil on canvas
Private collection
Courtesy of Smith and Singer Fine Art

As a counterpoint to scenes of pioneering labour, McCubbin also suggested a fantastical thematic—the mystery and possible magic filtering through the Mount Macedon bush depicted in fairy-themed images inspired by his younger children. What the little girl saw in the bush was painted in the same year as The pioneer and provides a very different narrative to that of the large-scale triptych.

The mystical qualities of the bush and the fairies that live within it had been the subject of Australian children’s books such as Australian Elves (published 1885) and Australian Fairy Tales (published 1897) by Frank Atha Westbury, however McCubbin’s interest is thought to have lay in the ‘spirit of nature’ and a ‘belief in the elemental forces of nature’ rather than illustrative traditions.