The son of artist Frederick McCubbin, Louis Frederick McCubbin studied at the National Gallery School from 1906 until 1911. Influenced by the Heidelberg school of Australian impressionism, of which his father was a leading figure, Louis was largely a landscape artist who worked in an impressionistic style. Above all, Louis was an innovative arts administrator and it was in this role that he made his greatest contribution to the Australian art world.
Louis McCubbin had a long association with the Australian War Memorial. As an official war artist he produced over 200 works encompassing impressions of the battle grounds, buildings, landscape and troop activities on the Western Front. From 1918 to 1930 he was involved in the creation of the First World War dioramas, now treasures of the National Collection. In an advisory capacity as a member of the Memorial s Art Committee, McCubbin supported the appointment of war artists and the development of the art collection throughout the Second World War. Among the artists whose appointments he supported were Ivor Hele, Donald Friend, Stella Bowen, and Murray Griffin. He was also a member of the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board from 1945 until his death in 1952.
In May 1916 McCubbin enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and served with the 14th Battalion in France from November 1917 as a stretcher bearer with the 10th Field Ambulance. He undertook a camouflage course in 1918 and worked as Officer-in-Charge of Camouflage for the 3rd Division, AIF, before being appointed an official war artist with the Australian War Records Section (AWRS).
In November 1918 McCubbin joined the newly formed modelling section of the AWRS in London. Under the leadership of Wallace Anderson, the section was tasked by Charles Bean to create dioramas for the new Australian War Museum. McCubbin was appointed over fellow artists Will Longstaff and George Benson due to his vision for integrating paintings with the dioramas. The modelling section spent 14 months based in Villers Bretonneaux visiting scenes of battles across the Somme. They made visual records including sketches, models and photographs to reference during the production of dioramas. With their fieldwork in France considered a success, the section also travelled to Egypt, Palestine and Gallipoli gathering more visual records for dioramas before returning to Australian in 1920. Between 1920 and 1930 McCubbin was employed by the Australian War Memorial to paint the backgrounds to the dioramas. He also produced numerous watercolour preparatory sketches and two series of paintings to complement the dioramas.
McCubbin was re-employed by the Memorial from 1935-1936 to undertake commissions for large paintings. These include Peronne, Heavy artillery advancing through the town, 1918, and Going in through Sailly-le-Sec, 1918, both depicting war damage on the Western Front. From 1936 until 1950, McCubbin was Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia and received an OBE for his services to art in 1947.