Important Australian + International Fine Art
30 November 2011


(1927 - 1982)

oil on canvas

72.0 x 81.5 cm

signed lower left: Fred Williams
inscribed verso: cat. P-7072
inscribed on label verso: artist's name, title, medium, size

$180,000 - 240,000
Sold for $204,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 23 - 30 November 2011, Melbourne

Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney (label attached verso)
Collection of the late David Wynn AO, Adelaide

Catalogue text

During 1972, the Yan Yean Swamp not far to the north of Melbourne held a special appeal for Fred Williams. Working out-of-doors from April to September, he made many daily painting trips, remarking in his diary for 17 September, 'Today was the 11th time I have worked from this spot" it is really one of the best places to work from I have ever come across!'1 Williams's palette had undergone considerable change introducing a wider and richer range that revealed his considerable gifts as a colourist. The colours of the Yan Yean landscape fascinated him, providing an ideal opportunity to experiment with the new palette. This is strikingly apparent in Yellow Gorse, Yan Yean 1972, where cobalt blues and violets, with mauves and brilliant yellows in the foreground translate into a field of abstract expressionist delight and painterly texture. The broad treatment of the foreground is characteristic of several of his Yan Yean landscapes, especially Yan Yean II (Dog chasing Possum) 1972 and Yan Yean Swamp I 1972, both in private collections.2 Williams likewise outlined the trees and other features in black. Providing effective containment for the bursts of colour, black heightened the imagery as a balance to the abstract fields of colour where it is absent. Painted directly from nature, they follow a more conventional landscape format than previously. Although Williams continued his fascination with the flat picture plane, there is a greater sense of pictorial illusion and depth. In Yan Yean II (Dog chasing Possum) and Yan Yean Swamp I Williams singles out the extraordinary shapes and contortions of pairs of gums and sets them against the thicket of trunks. The gorse contrasted with the trees attracts the eye in our painting. Full of liveliness, it has a greater sense of immediacy, that spontaneity of realisation that comes from working directly from the motif. A larger, rather majestically composed oil, Yan Yean 1972, is in the collection of the Queensland Art Gallery. As James Mollison has pointed out, it was originally conceived as the vertical centrepiece for the landscapes commissioned in 1972 for the foyer of the new Adelaide Festival Centre.3 (Williams finally decided on the horizontal format throughout.) Significantly, it was David Wynn AO (1915 - 1995) who acquired Yellow Gorse, Yan Yean. Wynn was a celebrated figure in the Australian wine industry, who introduced the iconic wine flagon and cask. He also had a very perceptive eye for art and developed a collection noted for its quality and individuality. Wynn served on the Council of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and extended the art of the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust where he was chairman from 1975-80. Yellow Gorse, Yan Yean was a key work in his collection, which included works by Russell Drysdale, William Delafield Cook, and Charles Blackman.

1. Quoted in Mollison, J., A Singular Vision: The Art of Fred Williams, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1989, p. 15
2. See McCaughey, P., Fred Williams, Bay Books, Sydney, 1980, pl. 140, and Mollison, op. cit., p. 156 for colour illustrations of these paintings.
3. Mollison, op. cit., pp. 159-161