In summer, Tom Roberts’ gravesite is the kind of setting familiar to his paintings. Roberts’ works were maligned by critics for not being ‘high art’. Instead, he famously portrayed sheep stations and wood splitters, often displaying his works on 9 x 5 inch cigar boxes. Where he now rests, the dry midlands heat has parched the grass. The gravestone faces out to a field of poppies, recently harvested. Behind the nearly-abandoned church (the lawns are nowadays decorated with an idol to ploughing), the bitumen road shimmers and glistens, and trucks scream down it.
Roberts was born in Dorset, England, in March 1856, and migrated to Australia as an eleven-year-old. As a young man, he lived in Collingwood and studied art while working as a photographer’s assistant. He lived for most of his life in Victoria, but he married a Tasmanian woman, Jean Boyes, with whom he had made a number of visits to the island; when he died, he chose to be buried at the Christ Church just outside of Longford, Tasmania.
She was an old family friend, and he was a 72-year-old widower. His friends called him Bulldog.
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