Important Australian + International Fine Art
31 August 2011


(1895 - 1988)

oil on canvas

78.0 x 96.0 cm

signed and dated lower left: L REES / 68-69

$140,000 - 180,000
Sold for $156,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 21 - 31 August 2011, Melbourne

Private collection, Sydney
Thence by descent
Private collection, Sydney


Lloyd Rees Retrospective, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2 October – 2 November 1969, cat. 101, (label attached verso) then touring to Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, November – December 1969; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1 – 28 February 1970; Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart, 17 March –13 April 1970; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 1–31 May 1970; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 18 June – 21 July 1970; and Newcastle Regional Gallery, New South Wales, 1 – 31 August 1970


Free, R., Lloyd Rees, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1972, cat. O268, p. 91 (illus.)

Catalogue text

Three major paintings - Land, Sea and Sky - make up the Song to Creation series painted by Lloyd Rees in the late sixties. Each a striking work in its own right; together they form a group that is resonant with life through their use of colour, light and the engaging feeling of atmosphere. As a homage to Australia, they in turn focus on the rocky landscape, the restless waters of the sea, and the all encompassing sunlit air as hymns of visual praise. In her monograph on Rees, Renee Free says the series 'expresses the great feeling for light, which dominates Rees' work in the years 1967 to 1969. Rees was elated for he felt his work had come to a climax.'1 It was a time of climax both in creative achievement and recognition. To this period belong such masterly paintings as The Timeless Land 1965 and Australian Facade 1965 (both in private collections), and another important series of five paintings, Tribute to France 1969, including Country I (Beziers) in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Cathedral I and II. In October 1969 a definitive retrospective exhibition organized by the Art Gallery of New South Wales opened its near year-long national tour in Sydney; and Ure Smith published Rees's book, The Small Treasures of a Lifetime. Rees's art captured the national imagination. Brett Whiteley in his In Appreciation for the Lloyd Rees Exhibition, described Rees as 'our first Master.'2 And in 1970 Rees was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Sydney, where he taught with distinction.

The Tribute to France and Song to Creation series were the most recent works in the exhibition, the crowning glory of the 101 oil paintings, followed by over fifty drawings of extraordinary draughtsmanship. The increasing influence of J.M.W. Turner in Rees's work is present in the Creation paintings, especially in the light saturated Sky where objects seem to dissolve in an overall radiant beauty. While the grandeur and majesty of the landscape as a wonder of creation is a central theme in Rees's oeuvre, it reaches a new level in Sky. There is also that deeply felt harmony between man and nature, renewed and extended in the presence of the foreground figure and the works of the human hand. A focal point is avoided to give an overall harmony. This is augmented through the broader handling of the paint, all imbued with a sense of wondrous praise in the perception of the sublime.

1. Free, op. cit., p. 90
2. Whiteley, B., 3 November 1969, quoted in ibid, p. 92