Important Australian + International Fine Art
28 August 2013


(1887 - 1935)

oil on board

35.5 x 40.5 cm

signed lower right: C. Beckett
inscribed on paper label verso: Evening St Kilda Road
framer's label attached verso: John Thallon, Melbourne

$50,000 - 70,000
Sold for $96,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 30 - 28 August 2013, Sydney

Private collection, Melbourne, c1930, a gift from the artist
Thence by descent
Private collection, Melbourne
Deutscher~Menzies, Melbourne, 15 June 2005, lot 17
Collection of Lex Aitken and Alfredo (Bouret) Gonzalez, Sydney

Catalogue text

Times of transience and soft-focus realism unite in the art of Clarice Beckett, suited ideally to sunrises and sunsets, foggy days and heat haze. Evening, St Kilda Road, c1930 provides the perfect moment as Beckett cloaks the city scene in a diaphanous veil, highlighted by lights and anchored in the darker forms of cars and trams. Its aesthetic appeal is enormous. But there is twofold pleasure in the reminiscence of a scene well known to Melburnians from a time less crowded than today. The absence of narrative allows for the better presentation of beauty, like music, free from the demands of verisimilitude. As Beckett once said, 'My pictures like music should speak for themselves.'1 The likeness was appreciated in her own time, as witness The Bulletin art critic, who said, when reviewing her solo exhibition at the Athenaeum Hall in 1930, 'Her counterpoint is so simple in its elements that the intrusion of the slightest false accent would destroy the harmony.'2 Therein lies a happy paradox. The stillness which envelops her paintings, allies itself to silence, leitmotifs wherein comes so much of the magic of her art. In painting, as in music, there is harmony, rhythm, and colour. Painting gives you its pleasures in a moment, its realms of silence are unique. The seeming simplicity with which Beckett creates profoundly moving visual statements is disarming. While her subjects are the everyday, her creativity transforms the pedestrian into poetic vision.

While Beckett painted many scenes of Melbourne's bayside beaches - Silver Morning (Near Beaumaris), c1931 or Sandringham Beach, c1933 (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra) -she found the city of Melbourne rich in subject matter, especially the River Yarra and its bridges. City street scenes include Collins Street, Evening, 1931 (National Gallery of Australia) and Taxi Rank, c1931. The latter, with its lights reflecting on wet roads, is so free and painterly that it might pass for a work of lyric abstraction. As in Evening, St Kilda Road, the illusion of depth is halted either by reflection or string of lights, with paint thin, and sky and ground similar in tone to maintain a flatness of the picture plane. Beckett seeks no illusion of reality, preferring the beauty of creativity and its inner harmonies. St Kilda Road and the suburb of St Kilda itself featured often as a sources of inspiration, as in St Kilda Road, Wet Night, and from her 1923 exhibition Sand Pump, Foreshore, St Kilda and Grey Morning, St Kilda. The mellifluous luminosity and handling of tone in Evening, St Kilda Road recalls the lyricism of Whistler in a nocturne, mellow of poesy, and dreamily romantic.

1. Beckett, quoted in R. Hollinrake, Clarice Beckett: Politically Incorrect, Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, 1999, p. 19
2. The Bulletin, Sydney, 29 October 1930, p. 33