Important Australian + International Fine Art
17 November 2010

Fred Williams

(1927 - 1982)

oil on canvas

122.0 x 152.0 cm

signed lower left: Fred Williams inscribed verso: GEORGES TWO GREEN CLOUDS GS888


Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney (label attached verso)
Private collection, Sydney,
acquired from the above 1967
Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney,
acquired from the above 1971


Fred Williams, Georges Gallery, Melbourne, 25 September - 14 October 1967
Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 1967, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 20 January - 18 February 1968, cat. 92


McCaughey, P., Fred Williams, Bay Books, Sydney, 1980, p. 19, pl. 8 (illus.)

Catalogue text

The green cloud landscapes of the mid-sixties form a major and fascinating group of paintings within Fred Williams's oeuvre. They were painted during a particularly creative period which saw the brilliant Upwey series 'from which they developed' snapped up by all the important private and public collectors who were fortunate enough to be able to acquire one. If proof of the stature of the following green cloud works were required, there is the contemporary example of Kym Bonython who snared Green Cloud and Owl 1966 for the American collector Harold Mertz. Although now repatriated, feeling at the time was that Australia was losing a major work abroad. Based on the familiar scene at Upwey, Williams decided to paint it at night, the production of the gouache Upwey1965 on a warm summer's night being described in detail by James Mollison in his excellent study of Williams.

Successive versions of this night scene followed: gouaches 'some in wonderful velvety browns and tan' and five dark etchings printed with rich aquatint, drypoint, mezzotint and engraved effects... One of these, Upwey landscape V, 1965-66... inspired the Prussian blue gouache Green cloud and owl, 1965, and from this, working between November 1965 and August 1966, Williams reverted to the taller vertical format of the etching to paint Green cloud and owl. He had often seen the pale green cloud as it passed its single way across the early evening sky at Upwey.1

'The gouache Green Cloud and Owl 1965 is in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and the 1965-66 version in oil was once in the collection of the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas, Austin, gift of the Mertz Art Fund. The outstanding feature of all these paintings is the richness of the blues, evocative of night on one hand, and so aesthetically enthralling on the other. In each Williams displays his mastery of infinite variety. Two Green Clouds 1966 has an inner luminosity and sparkling atmosphere, whereas in its night companion Green Cloud I 1967 the mood is heavier, almost airless as twilight moves closer to night in the changing colour of the sky. The horizon line in both determines the field of landscape with its gums rendered in the most appealing range of colours. There is also the characteristic interchange between the illusion of depth and the emphasis on the picture surface, so visually enriched by its painterly and tactile textures. In Two Green Clouds there is no diminution of tone to suggest depth, whereas the diminutive silhouettes of trees that break the far-reaching horizon line carry the eye into the picture, the sky adding to its sense of infinity. Other elements of the landscape advance and recede, while forms monumental and intimate, some scarred, effectively capture an aspect of the Australian bush, yet each maintains an independence of identity in a painting that at times touches on the surreal. There is a new poetry at work in this dreamy, atmospherically and colour-drenched painting, authoritative in its assured handling and captivating in its emotional impact.'

1. Mollison, J., A Singular Vision: The Art of Fred Williams, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1989, pp. 90-91