Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 August 2012


(1890 - 1964)

oil on composition board

137.0 x 152.5 cm

signed and dated lower right: R Balson. / ‘58

$60,000 - 80,000
Sold for $132,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 26 - 29 August 2012, Melbourne

Gallery A, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney


Ralph Balson Memorial Exhibition, Gallery A, Sydney, 1967, cat. 23
Ralph Balson: a retrospective, 15 August – 24 September 1989, Heide Park and Art Gallery, Victoria; and then touring to Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Newcastle Region Art Gallery, New South Wales; Wollongong City Gallery, New South Wales; University Art Museum, University of Queensland, Brisbane, cat. 44 (inscribed on label verso)


Adams, B., Ralph Balson: a retrospective, Heide Park and Art Gallery, Victoria,1989, p. 88, cat. 44, p. 67 (illus.)

Catalogue text

In his pursuit of the ineffable in art, Ralph Balson found abstraction the most rewarding path to walk along. Early semi-figuration, as in Portrait of Grace Crowley 1939 (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney), geometricised during the forties into an apotheosis of the fifties in such splendid paintings as Abstraction 1950 and Abstraction 1951 (both Art Gallery of New South Wales). His work then moved from applied strokes of the brush and touches of paint into matter paintings, of poured and flowing pigment. Balson's art is all to do with paint - its handling, colour, and inspiration. Each work from each period is a celebration of and in paint, of visual enjoyment, intuitively and intellectually pleasing. During his working hours he was a house painter. His own time was devoted to creating in paint. Non-Objective Painting 1958 is a classic Balson of its period, singled out for inclusion in his retrospective exhibition at Heide in 1989, and illustrated in colour in the accompanying catalogue. It belongs to a particularly significant group of late 1950s works which are now in public collections - Painting 1958 in the Art Gallery of New South Wales; Non-Objective Painting 1958 in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Painting 1958 from the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; and Non-Objective Painting 1959 of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. All were featured in the 1989 retrospective, described as 'paintings of considerable stature and presence.'1

The Non-Objective Paintings mark a particularly fruitful period in Balson's life. On retirement at 65, he was able to take up full-time painting. A move to Mittagong in 1956 allowed even greater freedom in the achievement of paintings of densely painted fields of spotted colour. They were quickly recognized as major contributions to Australian art, James Gleeson selecting two for inclusion in 1956 Pacific Loan Exhibition presented onboard the S.S. Orcades. Masterpieces of sublime painterly abstraction, they embrace the metaphysical in a synthesis of serene creativity and contemplation. In 1955 Balson wrote, 'It seems to me that today painting must dig deeper into the mystery and rhythm of the spectrum and that means existence of life itself. Not the age old form but the forcesbeyond the structure. Abstract, yes. Abstract from the surface, but more truly real with life.'2

Within the structured pictorial space of its own relevance, Non-Objective Painting 1958 has an inner calm and completeness, of unity echoing the infinite. Touches of dappled colour suggest a Seurat of modern times. Stillness enjoys a paradoxical partnership with movement - of energy and flux. It explores the very nature of painting itself.

1. Adams, B., 'Introduction', Ralph Balson: A Retrospective, Heide Park and Art Gallery, Melbourne, 1989, p. 33
2. Balson letter to Michel Seuphor, April 1955, quoted in Adams, op. cit., p. 33