Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 August 2012


(1927 - 1982)

oil on canvas

86.0 x 96.5 cm

signed upper left: Fred Williams

$220,000 - 280,000
Sold for $264,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 26 - 29 August 2012, Melbourne

Estate of the artist, Melbourne (cat. 961, inscribed verso)
Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney
Private collection
Christie's, Sydney, 17 August 1999, lot 24
Wesfarmers Art Collection, Perth (label attached verso)


Fred Williams Waterfall Paintings, Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney, 3 September – 5 October 1996, cat. 5 (handwritten label attached verso)


McCaughey, P., Fred Williams, Bay Books, Sydney, 1980, pp. 302–303

Catalogue text

The paintings of Fred Williams's waterfall series are among his most romantic works, as well as being numbered among his best. Falls themselves are full of grandeur and daring, the drop of the waters contrasting with the immobility of the rocks as ramparts of time. They certainly fascinated Williams, whose interest was initiated by the nineteenth century romantic Eugene von Guerard's painting Waterfall at Strath Creek 1862 in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Williams made a free copy of it, the gouache now in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Although painted in 1970, it was not until nine years later that he returned to the subject of waterfalls. In the early part of 1979 he journeyed throughout Victoria armed with a copy of Physiography of Victoria: An Introduction to Geomorphology by E. Sherbon Hills as his guide. He visited over ten sites including Agnes Falls near Port Welshpool, Trentham, the Kinglake National Park falls of Masons and Wombelano, and the Lal Lal Falls near Ballarat. He also painted the Stanley Park falls at Mount Macedon in central Victoria, as in the work on offer. Williams gave it the title 'Turritable Falls', not 'Stanley Falls' by which it is now known. This is probably explained by the source being the Turritable Creek. Moreover, they are referred to as 'Turritable Falls' in the various geological reports which remark on the solidified trachyte lavas over which the waters cascade. Although the drop is not high, the winter rains create a miraculous transformation within a park of considerable native beauty.

Through the brilliance of Williams's brushes the falls take on a noble presence, if not magnificence. Achieved particularly through the engagement of a closeness of focus, he allowed no outside reference to diminish its splendour. The grand tug of war between the flatness of the picture plane and the illusion of weight and depth is enlivened by gestures of white paint touched with blues, vivacious threads of silver waters falling over and splashing onto solid boulders. Highlighted against the dark rocky background of the right or harmonising with the greys of the left, running water is the prima donna performing across a setting both theatrical and of geological fascination. Above, the forest has been realised in one of Williams's most sensuous fields of paint, accents of rocks and trees nuanced in the subtlest of colours. Changing viewpoints, absence of horizon and sky add to the painting's appeal in its unique blend of occidental and oriental understanding of the landscape.