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Video clip synopsis – With its revolutionary approach to depicting the landscape and light, Tom Roberts’ Bailed Up is a painting that helped define Australia’s national identity.
Year of production - 2004
Duration - 5min 0sec
Tags - art, artists, bushrangers, heroes and villains, national identity, see all tags


Tom Roberts' Bailed Up

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About the Video Clip


Tom Roberts’ Bailed Up is an episode of the series National Treasures produced in 2004.

Tom Roberts’ Bailed Up
If you were to nominate one painting as Australia’s greatest, what would it be? Curator Barry Pearce of the Art Gallery of New South Wales explains why Tom Roberts’ Bailed Up would be a contender, and Warren Brown ponders the extraordinary lengths to which Roberts went to complete his famous artwork and how close we once came to losing this national treasure.

National Treasures
Take a road-trip of discovery with the irrepressible Warren Brown – political cartoonist, columnist and history “tragic” – as he reveals a fascinating mix of national treasures drawn from public and private collections across Australia. On its own, each treasure is a priceless snapshot of an historic moment. Together, they illustrate the vitality and uniqueness of the Australian experience.

National Treasures is a Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Curriculum Focus


Students will develop knowledge, understanding and skills to critically and historically interpret art informed by their understanding of practice, the conceptual framework and
the frames.

A student
5.7 applies their understanding of aspects of practice to critical and historical interpretations of art

5.8 uses their understanding of the function of and relationship between artist – artwork – world – audience in critical and historical interpretations of art

5.9 demonstrates how the frames provide different interpretations of art

5.10 demonstrates how art criticism and art history construct meanings.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


Tom Roberts was one of the ‘Heidelberg School’ of Australian artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

These painters introduced a ‘plein air’ style to depicting the Australian bush, using impressionist principles to capture the light, colour and atmosphere of the Australian bush landscape and sky.

The school was closely tied to an emerging Australian nationalism, which saw the acceptance of Australian scenes and people as suitable subjects for art.

Other members of the ‘school’ included Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder, Frederick Mc Cubbin, David Davies, Jane Sutherland, and Walter Withers.

There are many examples of Heidelberg School words in Australian state galleries.

Classroom Activities

  1. Understanding the video clip
    1. What is Bailed Up?
    2. What does it depict?
    3. When was it painted?
    4. What changes did the painter make to it?
    5. Why would he have made those changes?
  2. Exploring issues raised in the video clip
    1. The Heidelberg painters are described as a ‘school’. What does that mean?
    2. Describe the key characteristics of Bailed Up. Consider such elements as:
      Light; Colour; Theme; Message; Style.
  3. Look at other examples of this style and school. Go to Heidelberg School. Decide which of the characteristics or features you described for Roberts are common to the ‘school’.
  4. Research one of the painters of the Heidelberg School further, and prepare a report on him/her.

Further Resources


For more National Treasures information and video clips go to the Investigating National Treasures website