THE FAMILY, c.1957

Important Australian + International Fine Art
27 August 2014


(1891 - 1974)
THE FAMILY, c.1957

gouache on cardboard

52.0 x 36.0 cm

signed with monogram lower left: IF

$90,000 - 120,000
Sold for $108,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 36 - 27 August 2014, Sydney

E. York Seymour
Mr and Mrs D. Perks, McMasters Beach, New South Wales
Christie's, Melbourne, 12 April 1987, lot 408
Private collection, Melbourne


Ian Fairweather, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 20 November – 2 December 1957, cat. 17, 20 gns
Ian Fairweather, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 19 November – 1 December 1958, cat. 10, 20 gns
Fairweather, a retrospective exhibition, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 3 June – 4 July 1965, cat. 36 touring to Art Gallery of New South Wales, 21 July – 22 August 1965; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 9 September – 10 October 1965; National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 26 October – 21 November 1965; Western Australian Art Gallery, 9 December 1965 – 16 January 1966; Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart, 10 February – 13 March 1966
8th Anniversary Exhibition, Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney, November 1967, cat. 10
Dealer's Choice Exhibition, Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney, January 1968, cat. 14
Selected Australian Works of Art, Lauraine Diggins, Melbourne, 26 June – 10 July 1985 (illus. p. 23 in exhibition catalogue) 
Ian Fairweather, Paintings and Drawings 1927 – 1970, Niagara Galleries, Melbourne, 3–24 October 1985, cat. 37 (label attached verso)


Bail, M., Ian Fairweather, Bay Books, Sydney, 1981, pp. 140–143, cat. 139, pl. 69 (illus. p. 143) 
Ian Fairweather Paintings & Drawings 1927 – 1970, Niagara Galleries, Melbourne, 1985, p. 28, cat. 37 

Catalogue text

The subject of the family, of mother and child, of people grouped together, appealed to Ian Fairweather both thematically and for its formal possibilities. As early as 1935 he had painted Mother and Child in the Skinner Collection, University of Western Australia, Perth, continuing during the 1950s with works of the same title. This celebration of interlocking forms and feelings reached a crescendo in Anak Bayan, 1957 in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, accompanied by such equally inclined abstract works of the highest quality as our painting, The Family, c1957, and Ave Maria, 1957 in the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth. Both paintings were included in Fairweather's retrospective exhibition curated by Laurie Thomas and Robert Smith for the Queensland Art Gallery in 1965 and then toured nationally. Significantly, Fairweather said of Ave Maria, '... the title was an afterthought, and had little to do with the intention of the painting - However I don't feel I am a complete abstractionist - I still like - perhaps mistakenly in this age of collectivism -" to retain some relic of subjective reality.'1 The subtle balance and interplay between abstraction and figuration in Ave Maria and The Family, c1957 are several of the reasons why these paintings are so captivating. In The Family, c1957 the calligraphic gestures have an almost intoxicating freedom flowing through and across the picture's surface. Illusions of depth and suggestions of adventure into actual space are quickly balanced by the lively play of the paint on the picture's plane.

Fairweather's handling of colour in The Family, c1957 is another of its great attractions, his use of a very limited palette showing a restraint of which only a great colourist is capable. He said, 'I don't like bright colours. The Chinese manage to do their finest paintings with no colour at all.'2 While the blues and greys evoke the protective and maternal, shots of terracotta give it a touch of flesh and blood, each colour engaged and overlapping with the next in the perfect marriage of ideas and technique. In the catalogue introduction to Fairweather's touring retrospective of 1965, Robert Smith summed up the artist's central interest - 'In his paintings Ian Fairweather has always been concerned with people - not as individuals, not as types, but as people: part of the vast unfolding tapestry of life.'3

The painting's provenance does it honour. Its first owner was E. York Seymour, a distinguished collector of his time.

1. Fairweather interview with Hazel de Berg, 1 April 1963, quoted in Bail, M., Ian Fairweather, Murdoch Books, Sydney, revised edition 2009, p. 141
2. Fairweather, transcript of interview with Peter Loxton for 'Lifestyle', ABC Radio, broadcast 16 June 1973, quoted in Bail, M., Ian Fairweather, Bay Books, Sydney, 1981, p. 90
3. Smith, R.,'Introduction', Fairweather: a retrospective exhibition, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1965, no pagination