Works by Mather included in this catalogue
Mather Morning, Lake Omeo 1891 {1891} NGV [WT]
Mather Autumn in the Fitzroy Gardens 1894 {1895} NGV [PA]
Mather Wintry Weather, Yarra Glen 1895 {1895} NGV [WT]

Pre-Felton works donated by Mather
Barak Untitled [Aboriginal ceremony] {1895} SLV [PA]
Barak Untitled [Aboriginal ceremony, with wallaby and emu] {1895} SLV [PA]

An able if sometimes prosaic painter, Mather played an influential and varied role in the Melbourne art world, after arriving from Scotland in 1878.

He worked at the fringes of the more radical developments in painting during the 1880s, being accused by James Smith in the Argus of 1883 of excessive sketchiness (prefiguring Smith’s attack on the 9 x 5 Exhibition in 1889), and supporting Tom Roberts over Ellis Rowan in 1888 (see linked entry). He was also one of the painters who visited Streeton and Conder’s artists’ camp at Eaglemont in the summer of 1888-89.

Interestingly, his 1890s landscapes are rather less heroic than the typical imagery of Streeton and others in the era: see e.g. Mather Wintry Weather, Yarra Glen 1895 {1895} NGV [WT].

He was also active in the wider patterns of development of Australian art during the period, for instance as a key contributor to the early development of etching in Australia. The first practicing artist appointed as an NGV Trustee (in 1892), he later became an inaugural member of the Felton Bequest Committee (1905-16); in both roles, he was vocal in advocating the purchase of works by Australian artists. He was also a foundation member and inaugural president (1893-1900) of the Victorian Artists’ Society, and also president on several later on several occasions through to 1911. In 1912 he joined McCubbin, Withers and others in forming the breakaway Australian Art Association.

Finally, he is also notable for having donated two paintings by Indigenous painter William Barak to the pre-Felton Melbourne collection in 1895.


For Mather, see (biography by Judy Blyth, published in ADB vol.10, 1986); see also Astbury, Sunlight and Shadow (1989), pp.68 (quoting James Smith) and 156 (regarding Ellis Rowan). For Mather as an etcher, see e.g. Grishin, Australian Art (2013), pp.187-88, citing Roger Butler. Grishin, p.124, also identifies Mather as one of those who visited Eaglemont in 1888-89