Important Australian + International Fine Art
28 August 2013


born 1936

oil on canvas

137.5 x 183.5 cm

signed and dated lower left: William Robinson 95

$160,000 - 200,000

Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney


William Robinson, Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney, 28 June – 24 July 1996
William Robinson – A Retrospective, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 31 August – 11 November 2001;
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 14 December 2001 – 10 March 2002 (label attached verso)


Seear, L., (ed.), Darkness and Light: The Art of William Robinson, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2001, pp. 56 (illus., detail), 138, 157, pl. 78 (illus.)

Catalogue text

'In The Jellyfish Ring I believe I have achieved more than in most of the other seascapes. I was inspired by a strange game played by children whereby they would collect jellyfish and place them in a marked-out sand ring... I was particularly interested in the combination of the forces of nature and the remains of man-made objects.'1

In 1994 Shirley and William Robinson relocated from the lush greenery of Beechmont, Queensland to the small beachside town of Kingscliff, New South Wales, sparking a new period of painting in Robinson's repertoire. The Jellyfish Ring, 1995 employs a much lighter palette than Robinson's earlier work, with the rippling sea and billowing sky painted in iridescent pastels of violet and emerald. There is a surreal feeling in this painting, as if we, the viewer, are being led through the landscape as somnambulists. The footprints and sandcastles speckled across the shore appear as some kind of archaeological markings, the shells as fossil relics, all destined to be swept away by the impending waves. Even the tiny silhouetted people frolicking seem to be so insignificant against the vastness of the natural forces that surround them. In the artist's words, '[the] possibility of a vanished life and the relentless movement of sea and sky, offer great possibilities for me'.2

Robinson uses an unusual perspective in this work, bringing us into the picture with the upwards sweeping motion of the waves that climb the sloping sandbank, making the landscape somehow foreign and disorienting. But we are able to orient ourselves again through the womb-like circular form in the bottom left of the composition: the jellyfish ring.

Robinson's beachscapes '... may become elaborate ground-plans, labyrinthine patterns of concentrated nature, which resolve to a circle enclosed in the forms of the sun and moon, the human head, ponds, spirals of stars and ziggurats of sand; it is inscribed in the monumental imprint of The jellyfish ring, 1995. As in the tradition of the mandala, awareness of the material world's impermanence is accompanied by the symbolism of the circle and its association with wholeness.'3

Robinson is one of Australia's most respected painters. He is the recipient of two Archibald Prize awards in 1987 and 1995, both for self-portraits, and shortly after painting The Jellyfish Ring Robinson won the Wynne Prize for Landscape Painting at the Art Gallery of New South Wales for the second time (1996). In 2001-2002, the first major retrospective of his work opened at the Queensland Art Gallery and toured to the National Gallery of Australia, including The Jellyfish Ring, and in 2011 the Queensland University of Technology Art Museum curated another retrospective entitled William Robinson: The Transfigured Landscape which was opened by the Australian Governor General Quentin Bryce.

1. Robinson, cited in Klepac, L., (ed.), William Robinson: Paintings 1987-2000, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2001, p. 109
2. Ibid.
3. Murphy, J., 'Constantly Circling', in Seear, L., (ed.), Darkness and Light: The Art of William Robinson, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2001, p. 56