Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 August 2007


(1927 - 1982)

oil on canvas

81.0 x 91.0 cm

signed lower right: Fred Williams

$150,000 - 200,000
Sold for $264,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 2 - 29 August 2007, Melbourne

The estate of the artist
Mrs Lyn Williams, Melbourne
Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney
Art Galleries Schubert, Queensland (label attached verso)
Company collection, Queensland
Deutscher~Menzies, Melbourne, 4 June 2003, lot 33
Private collection, Sydney

Catalogue text

The subject of the You Yangs, a range of granite hills rising out of the volcanic plains to the west of Melbourne, inspired Fred Williams to create some of his best paintings. The first series of the early sixties broke new ground in originality, gaining Williams worldwide acclaim and commercial success. Characteristically individual in approach, he took his viewpoint from the ranges themselves, looking out across the featureless plain to the middle distance and tilting the landscape to ovoid all reference to the sky. In this new sense of pictorial space, the eye climbed up and across the picture plane rather than into an illusion of space. Williams had discovered beauty in what was previously regarded as the monotony of our landscape.

Returning to the motif some ten years later in You Yangs Landscape, 1974 he chose as his subject the picturesque ranges themselves. This more traditional approach was re-established in the ordering of the component parts, each informed by and developed through the creativity of his earlier work. In a play of contrasts, the featureless plain of the foreground is expressed exactly as such, providing a minimalist foil to the middle ground of the scruffy expressionist tangle of trees, bushes and volcanic rocks of the range. Above, the sky is a brilliant blue of summer, touched with a few distant clouds, informing all with an atmosphere of calm. The horizontal bands of the three components of the landscape suggest something never ending, concluded only by the edges of the painting, conjuring up a sense of the limitless panorama of the Australian landscape. There is a new feeling of emotional involvement in the scene engendered by spontaneity of response and the enormous technical and aesthetic powers at his command. In devising a greater sense of reality within his imagery of the landscape, Williams nevertheless observed the painter's respect for the integrity of the picture surface, the composition balancing illusion of depth with horizontal movement. Once again he enlivened the surface with dashes, dabs and swirls of visually seductive, richly colour-laden paint, their former abstract inclination now vested with figurative implications of the detritus of the You Yangs scrub. The focus of the painting's interest lies in this central band, made all the more appealing through the tactility of its textures, in sharp contrast with the smooth surfaces above and below. A comparison of You Yangs Landscape, 1974 with the same titled work of 1963 reveals something of the seemingly limitless extent of Williams' inventive curiosity and creative powers, the same landscape motif inspiring two entirely different master works.