HOMEWARD BOUND, 1988

Important Australian and International Fine Art + Important Indigenous Art
Melbourne
29 November 2017
29

ROBERT JUNIPER

(1929 – 2012)
HOMEWARD BOUND, 1988

oil and synthetic polymer paint on linen

181.5 x 243.5 cm

signed and dated lower right: Juniper / 88
bears inscription verso: CAT NO. 1

Estimate: 
$30,000 – 40,000
Provenance

Australian Galleries, Melbourne (label attached verso, cat. 5071)
Private collection, Melbourne

Exhibited

Images of Australia by Robert Juniper, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 5 – 26 October 1988, cat. 1

Literature

O’Brien, P., Robert Juniper, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1992, pp. 46, 128, pl. 37 (illus.)

Catalogue text

Robert Juniper was one of the most successful Western Australian artists of the second half of the twentieth century. With his colleagues Guy Grey-Smith and Brian McKay, he founded the Perth Group in 1958 which was that state’s first artist-collective devoted to the active support of modernist art. International exposure soon followed and by the early 1970s, his signature style of large landscapes seen from a high aspect was established. Depicted in washes of rich colour both stained and brushed, his domains were populated by figures and structures he encountered throughout his extensive travels. Homeward Bound, 1988 dates from a particularly fruitful period in his career when the artist was also undertaking a series of commissions for theatre productions, danceworks, public buildings, book illustrations and even the altar of a country church.

Born in the regional town of Merredin, Juniper’s parents took him to England whilst young and he undertook his art studies there between 1943 and 1947 at the Beckenham School of Art. On his return to Western Australia, he began exhibiting in group exhibitions and moved to the nearby Darling Ranges where the Grey-Smith family was already living. Inevitably, a strong friendship ensued which culminated in the bold plan of the Perth Group. In 1958, Rose Skinner opened Perth’s first properly commercial gallery and the artist-collective held a series of sell-out exhibitions there before disbanding. Through Skinner’s auspices, Juniper subsequently participated in the groundbreaking Recent Australian Painting at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 1961, was featured in the Tate Gallery Exhibition of Australian Painting which was shown in both England and Canada in 1963; and held what was probably the first solo exhibition in Japan by an Australian artist the following year. The connection had other rewards too, such as Juniper’s meeting and subsequent life-long friendship with John Olsen who recognised a kindred spirit in the tall Western Australian: ‘Humanly, aesthetically, we share many common views: a feeling for the uniqueness of the Australian landscape, its vast spaces (and) the richness of emptiness.’1

Homeward Bound is a key work in Juniper’s career which follows a revelatory visit to Broome and its environs in 1985. The image is a compendium of experiences, not an image of topographical fidelity, as he never painted in the field, preferring to work on large canvases laid flat on work tables in the studio. Of his approach, Juniper noted: ‘I like my landscapes to look as though they have been exposed to time and the elements like the landscapes they are derived from, hence my use of natural ochres, mineral sands, graphite, etc’.2 Set amidst a shimmering field of blues, pinks and browns, a column of horses bear their riders to a lonely destination occupied by a tall figure (possibly echoing the artist himself, always identifiable by his own distinctive broad hat) whose two canine companions bounce excitedly at the prospect of visitors. As ever, Juniper displays ‘fiercely disciplined draftsmanship and his brilliant control of descriptive outline (which) brings a feeling of great elegance and authority to his work’.3 Due to the undeniable impact of the painting, it was the first catalogue listing for his successful exhibition at Australian Galleries, Melbourne, in October 1988, selling almost as soon as the show opened.

1. Olsen, J., 1982, quoted in Olsen, J., Drawn from Life, Duffy and Snellgrove, Sydney, 1997, p. 186
2. ‘Artist’s Statement’, Artist in Focus 2: Robert Juniper, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 1988
3. Stringer, J. and Woldendorp, R., Artists in Residence, Sandpiper Press, Perth, 1995, p. 63

ANDREW GAYNOR