John Mather was born in October 1848 at Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland.
He sketched from early childhood and living on the Duke of Hamilton’s estate, was allowed access to the Duke’s great collection of paintings. Mather studied at the Edinburgh National Gallery School and worked in various parts of Scotland, England and in Paris, mainly as a decorator. Suffering from asthma he decided to emigrate to ‘sunny Australia’, arriving in Melbourne in 1877/8.

Whilst continuing to accept some decorative commissions (e.g. work on the dome of the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings) he strove to become a full-time professional painter. Mather enrolled at the National Gallery School of Victoria in 1882, where he joined the ‘plein air’ landscape expeditions around Melbourne with Frederick McCubbin, Walter Withers, Louis Abrahams and others.

John Mather was elected as a founding committee member of the Australian Artists’ Association in Melbourne in 1886. In 1888 he maintained a studio in Healesville, Victoria. He loved painting in the parks and gardens of Melbourne, at bayside beaches and on the banks of the Yarra River. Later, Mather painted in New South Wales, Tasmania, Western Australia and New Zealand. From 1891 he conducted painting classes at his city studio in Austral Buildings, Collins Street, Melbourne, becoming a popular teacher.

In 1893 he became the first artist trustee at the National Gallery of Victoria, a position he held until his death. He exhibited regularly in Melbourne and Sydney, served as President of the Victorian Artists’ Society 1893 -1901 and later for two further terms. From 1905 to 1916 he was a member of the Felton Bequest Committee. In 1912 he became a foundation member of the Australian Art Association.
He died in 1916.

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