Tom Roberts Road – art for all time and of all places

Photo of Tom Roberts Road - a dirt road surrounded by tall mountain ash trees

Share with your friends


Photo by Gareth Vanderhope: Tom Robert’s road, Kallista, Australia.

My friends and I used to walk down this dusty track when chestnutting, en-route for the big tree at the Kallista Church. We’d venture down various side streets along the way, like Clarkson Road and Royal Avenue (where Tom Roberts lived), hoping to find some golden nuggets.

Roberts once stated: ‘by making art the perfect expression of one time and one place, it becomes for all time and of all places.’

Australian Dictionary of Biography

Roberts was famous for his role in establishing the Heidelberg School, also known as Australian impressionism. He was one of the first painters to recognize the unique character of the Australian landscape.

In 1923, Roberts built a small cottage in Kallista and painted forest scenes in a wooden studio next to the house. He lived there, painting until his death in 1931. As kids, we’d glance at the cottage on our travels, intrigued by its mystique.

Below is a view from Robert’s house. It’s amazing how the trees have grown since then. Logging occurred from the around the 1850s until 1930. Given Roberts was a conservationist, no doubt, he’d love the see the mountain ash trees standing grandly on the road in his name.


Oil painting of a view of the Dandenong Ranges, Australia, by Tom Roberts
Tom Roberts. The south wind, 1924, oil on canvas on plywood. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

I love the photo of Tom Roberts Road, as shown in this post. It was a happy accident, and despite being unprocessed, has painterly qualities. The image exudes a timeless expression of the Australian landscape, particularly of the hills and Kallista.

When writing The Hills Kids, I also tried to depict a time and place, specifically, stories from the 1970s–80s, adventuring in the Dandenong Ranges with friends. Whilst the stories come from the past, embedded in memory, I wanted the reader to experience the drama as if it were happening now – like they were on the adventure. The aim is for the story to be of all time and of all places in honour of Tom Roberts.