Celebrating ‘the artwork that defined a nation’

By Adrienne Hartnett

Preparations are underway for the 130th anniversary of the iconic Tom Roberts’ ‘Shearing of the Rams’ painting with several events planned locally in the lead up to the October long weekend celebration.   

The original painting was created in 1890 at Brocklesby Station in Corowa. Many of the characters depicted in the picture were local to the area, with descendants still living in the Corowa district.

Roberts worked on the painting over two years, enlisting the help of a young Susan Bourne to help kick up dust to capture the atmosphere of shearing at the time. Susan is depicted in Roberts’ painting as the tar boy.

The National Gallery of Victoria, which currently holds the original painting, describes it as symbolic of Australia’s identity in the nineteenth century.

“It reflects the emergence of a national identity defined through heroic rural activity and the economic importance of the wool industry.”

Lesley New, publicity officer for the Corowa District Historical Society, says members are excited about upcoming events, including the unveiling of a mural in Sanger Street in October.  

“The Historical Society is upgrading the Tom Roberts display in the museum. We have also commissioned a large reproduction of Tom Roberts’ painting to be unveiled during the celebrations,” Ms New told The Free Press.   

Historian Andrew Mackenzie OAM is expected to make a speech on ‘the artwork that defined a nation’ and a blade shearing demonstration is also on the cards.

The Corowa Race Club are also joining the celebration and will conduct a Tom Roberts Race day on Monday, September 14.

“We will also have competitions beginning in September which local businesses have indicated a willingness to be part of,” Ms New said.

 «It will be a lot of fun for all who are willing to participate, and it will get everyone ready to enjoy the activities over the NSW long weekend in October.”