By the end of the 19th century Australian society was one of the world’s most urbanised. The majority inhabiting the various British colonies in Australia lived in cities such as Melbourne and Sydney. These were major ports, part of an international trade and communications network. Exports included the spoils of vast agricultural development, especially wool, while imports brought art journals from Europe and America, plugging Australian artists into international debates around modern painting.
In 1885, 'Marvellous Melbourne’, as it was known, was one of the richest cities in the world, and fast becoming the second largest in the British Empire. Melbourne was home to a lively art scene, but its more conservative critics were sceptical of the influence international ‘Impressionist’ trends were having on the young generation of local artists.