Part 1: Important Fine Art
28 November 2012


(1927 - 1982)

gouache on paper

55.5 x 76.0 cm

signed lower right: Fred Williams

$35,000 - 45,000
Sold for $38,400 (inc. BP) in Auction 27 - 28 November 2012, Melbourne

Estate of the artist, Melbourne
Nevill Keating Pictures, London
Private collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above in 2003

Catalogue text

The Avenel works of 1973 through to 1975 mark a period of substantial change in the work of Fred Williams. Up until mid 1973, Williams had been occupied with the Adelaide Festival Theatre Murals commission, a series of five panels which when combined formed a monumental work. The process had left him exhausted and depleted, at one point spending time in hospital after developing pneumonia. The Adelaide murals themselves show an artist in the midst of transformation. Exploring ideas developed in the strip landscape gouaches, the resulting ensembles were produced in a third of the time Williams would usually allow for a major work in oil.

The focused intensity of the commission seemed to engender a desire to be outside, working once more in the landscape. Williams explored Victorian sites such as Avenel, Cannons Creek and Donnybrook with a renewed vigour, producing gouaches and oil sketches which reveal the artist's pleasure in painting plein air. Compositionally, Avenel is also informed by the strip gouaches of 1971 in the same manner as Cannons Creek and Cannons Creek Diptych of 1974. As noted by Patrick McCaughey, 'The focus was pushed back into the middle band of the work so that individual motifs did not become too "picturesque", but were generalized by distance. He emptied the foreground, making it a palimpsest on which he could indulge his own free handwriting'.1

There is another device here in Avenel that Williams has renewed from an earlier landscape. The rollicking dark line which divides the foreground from the middle can also be found in his 1968 oil on canvas works Saplings Mittagong. There the gesture is used also to contain, dividing the composition up into planes where action has its counterpoint in the clear sky above.

1. McCaughey, P., Fred Williams 1927 - 1982, Murdoch Books, Sydney, 2008, p. 250