Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 August 2007


born 1936

oil on canvas

94.0 x 119.5 cm

signed lower right: William Robinson
inscribed verso: Bush Landscape/ with Sunbeams

$180,000 - 240,000

Ray Hughes Gallery, Brisbane
Private collection
Sotheby's, Sydney, 15 August 2000, lot 29
Savill Galleries, Melbourne
Christie's, Melbourne, 27 August 2002, lot 28
Art Galleries Schubert, Queensland (label attached verso)
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

...To see one of Robinson's landscapes is to be in it as well, to walk, and maybe to forage, with the painter through gum-thicketed gullies where any difference between the sky and its reflection is hard to tell - and probably unnecessary to know. The viewer is required to take a leap of faith, and execute something akin to a cartwheel, before penetrating Robinson's dizzy realms. The resulting experience is partly aesthetic, partly athletic...'1

With its multiple viewpoints and sweeping panorama of darkness and light, earth and air, Bush Landscape with Sunbeams encapsulates well the highly original landscapes for which William Robinson has become so widely acclaimed and admired. Departing from predecessors such as Streeton, Drysdale and Williams who celebrated the harbours, deserts and rural plains of the continent, Robinson is unique in his devotion to an environment hitherto neglected by artists - the ancient, labyrinthine rainforests of his immediate surroundings in the coastal hinterland of Southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. Similarly, where the Australian landscape tradition had been characterised by a strong horizontality, Robinson here deliberately eschews established figure-ground relationships and conventional one-point perspective to transform landscape into a multiview experience - allowing every fold and fissure to be explored, yet still preserving a sense of panoramic continuity.

Immortalising those elements of nature which seem eternal - radiating shafts of sunlight; majestic rifts of sky; endless forest teeming with life - Bush Landscape with Sunbeams is a powerful manifestation of the artist's enduring interest in the relationship between man and the cosmos. Bearing strong stylistic affinities with his highly acclaimed five-panel Creation Landscape -Darkness and Light I-V, 1988 (Art Gallery of Western Australia) executed around this time, so too the present work celebrates the sheer genius of creation itself with a landscape that is as grotesque as it is beautiful, terrific as it is marvelous.

Moreover, unlike his later 'wilderness' landscapes typically bereft of human presence, here Robinson notably includes the wide-eyed figures of himself and wife Shirley perched amid the arboreal splendor - a subtle allusion perhaps to Adam and Eve first marveling at their Eden. Imbued with a sense of joy and wonderment, the composition pays homage to the universe and its benevolent creator, celebrating the infinite cycles of nature and the forest as a repository for hope.

1. James, B., 'A Landscape We Thought We Knew', Sydney Morning Herald, 29 January 2003, p.15