Important Australian + International Fine Art
28 August 2013


(1915 - 2008)

oil on Belgian linen

179.0 x 154.0 cm

signed lower left: Gleeson '94
signed and titled on stretcher verso: “LANDSCAPE WITH SELF-PORTRAIT IN PARENTHESIS” / James Gleeson

$80,000 - 120,000

Watters Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney, acquired from the above in 1994


James Gleeson: Paintings from the Past Decade, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 9 September – 3 October 1994 (label attached verso)
30th Anniversary Summer Exhibition, Watters Gallery, Sydney, November 1994
James Gleeson, Maitland Regional Art Gallery, Maitland, 24 September – 24 October 2004
James Gleeson: Paintings from the 1960s and 1970s, Wagner Art Gallery, Sydney, 26 May – 21 June 2007 (on loan)


Free, R., James Gleeson: Images from the Shadows, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1996 revised edition, p. 129, pl. 46 (illus.)

Catalogue text

'As human beings we do not have the capacity to imagine the unimaginable. We can only project from a basis of the known. We can invent nothing that is entirely new. All that we can do is to bring together pre-existing realities in such new relationships as might surprise us into feeling that we have caught a momentary glimpse of something that had previously been hidden from us. Nothing is as strange or as various as Nature herself. She is the primal Surrealist.'1

For more than sixty years James Gleeson has divulged the depths of his own imagination onto the canvas, offering up damning and captivating depictions of the world we live in and our place within it. In his bizarre and surreal compositions, Gleeson paints huge wrenching forms which twist across his canvas - all appears a jumble in this world - but there is a sense of limbs and flesh, of piercing eyes and gaping mouths. Unto the canvas the macabre spills out, the repulsive, the erotic, the abject, and the magnificent uncertainty of the universe at large.

In Landscape with Self-Portrait in Parenthesis the artist inserts himself into this magnetic nightmare. This work is one of only a handful of paintings ever executed by Gleeson that contain his self portrait. Other works in which the artist appears include Structural Emblems of a Friend, 1941 in the Queensland Art Gallery collection, Brisbane, The Arrival of Implacable Gifts, 1985, collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Portrait of the Artist as an Evolving Landscape, 1993, and The Artist Descending, 1998, both formerly in the Agapitos Wilson collection. In our work, subsumed within the great swelling paint, Gleeson's face materialises serenely, as if somehow at peace with his tumultuous subconscious. He gazes out at us meaningfully, willing us to look closer, to look deeper, not only into this image, but into the world around us, which this painting simply reflects.

'Gleeson's paintings are the mirror which reveals the dark and dangerous regions which are too terrifying for our ordinary consciousness, because they represent a view of existence measured in light years where man's life is but a flicker of a small flame.'2

1. Gleeson, quoted in Free, R., James Gleeson: Images from the Shadows, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1993, p. 42
2. Klepac, L., James Gleeson: Beyond the Screen of Sight, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2004, p. 9