FARMYARD CONSTRUCTION WITH SELF PORTRAIT, c.1982 - 83

Important Australian + International Fine Art
Melbourne
30 November 2011
18

WILLIAM ROBINSON

born 1936
FARMYARD CONSTRUCTION WITH SELF PORTRAIT, c.1982 - 83

oil on canvas

53.0 x 62.5 cm

signed lower right: William Robinson

Estimate: 
$60,000 - 80,000
Sold for $72,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 23 - 30 November 2011, Melbourne
Provenance

Ray Hughes Gallery, Brisbane
Private collection, Brisbane
Deutscher~Menzies, Melbourne, 28 August 2002, lot 40
Savill Galleries, Sydney (label attached verso)
Private collection, New South Wales
Sotheby's, Melbourne, 21 November 2006, lot 24
Private collection, Melbourne

Exhibited

Ray Hughes Gallery, Brisbane

Catalogue text

Farmyard Construction with Self Portrait 1982-83 provides an early archetype for William Robinson's 1995 Archibald winning entry, Self portrait with Stunned Mullet. In fact, aside from the similarities of the sitter's attire in both pictures, Robinson generally views his portraits as part and parcel of his farmyard constructions, where he invariably makes a cameo appearance. He states,'Perhaps all of the portraits for the Archibald should be considered together with the farm portraits. They are really a series of self revelations.'1 Indeed, if ever viewed altogether this series of portraits and farmyards would become like one kaleidoscopic view, multifaceted and seen from varied perspectives. These works became a reflection of the artist's life at his farm at Birkdale, where he and his family moved in 1970. Almost immediately he began to paint scenes from around the farm and locating himself within it. 'My farm constructions were of my own invention, and a direct response to my state of life and place of living', he comments.2

In the Robinson farmyard the farmer and land owner never lords over his stock and instead he often appears stunned in the presence of such chaos. He is always on equal terms with his chooks and cows as though there is no pecking order on Robinson's farm. 'My own farm images began with chooks and cows. Many drawings of cows in family groups were made in conte crayon before I made any paintings. The goats came later with chooks, turkeys, old cars and falling-over sheds. There was never any farm machinery or romantic order, only a sense of self-defeat and inevitability.'3In Farmyard Construction with Self Portrait Robinson does not look out towards the viewer but instead he stands motionless, his eyes shrouded by his rain hat gazing at one of his beloved cows. In parody of the traditional portrait where in the very least the subject stares out towards the viewer and engages with him, Robinson shields himself from deeper inspection in both his stance and his attire, which act like a set of armour. Conversely in this self portrait his cows stand steadfast and look the viewer directly in the eye, unafraid of any scrutiny or revelation.

1. Quoted in Klepac, L., William Robinson: Paintings 1987-2000, Beagle Press, Sydney, 2001, p. 175
2. Quoted in Seear, L., Darkness and Light: The Art of William Robinson, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2001, p. 69
3. Klepac, op. cit., p. 181

LARA NICHOLLS