Important Australian + International Fine Art
27 August 2008

Clarice Beckett

(1887 - 1935)

oil on canvas on board

42.5 x 47.0 cm

signed lower left: C Beckett

$25,000 - 35,000
Sold for $43,200 (inc. BP) in Auction 5 - 27 August 2008, Melbourne

The Meldrum Gallery, Melbourne (inscribed verso)
The Estate of Carmen Figuerola, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne


Possibly Paintings by Miss Clarice Beckett, Athenaeum Hall, Melbourne, 5 – 20 June 1923, cat. 21, as 'Road to the Sea'; and Memorial Exhibition. Clarice Beckett, Athenaeum Gallery, Melbourne, 4 – 16 May 1936, cat. 2, as 'Path to the Sea'

Catalogue text

In The Road to the Sea (Beaumaris), as in all her art, Clarice Beckett weaves the magic of her individuality, of landscapes, cityscapes and flower pieces soft in focus and captivating in colour. Like many of her works, it is thinly painted so that the images take on an insubstantial, almost ethereal quality. In these paintings of light and air, forms are as transient as moments of sunlight or mist. It is by such means that she gently transforms in tonal illusions of reality the prosaic into the poetic. Never before has the detritus of modern life - the ubiquitous telegraph pole, road or railing - looked so lyrical.

As many of Beckett's catalogues have been lost, it is impossible to identify this painting with certainty. The title written on the back of the painting states 'The Road to the Sea' with the addition of 'Beaumaris' and the dates '1932/33'. This was probably provided by J. H. Minogue, manager of the Meldrum Gallery of Queen Street, Melbourne, where Beckett held solo exhibitions in 1932 and 1933. The titles 'Road to the Sea' from her 1923 exhibition, and 'Path to the Sea' from 1936 offer tempting alternatives. Of the nearly eighty paintings in her 1923 exhibition, the art critic for the Sun News - Pictorial praised her still life studies, landscapes, 'and many interesting Bayside glimpses.' He concluded with the observation, 'Her work denotes a fine appreciation for natural beauty.'1

Transient as The Road to the Sea (Beaumaris) and other paintings at first may seem, each is firmly based on an underlying classicism composed of carefully considered verticals and horizontals. Each has a decided emphasis on the picture plane. Contrary to her foreground path, which tempts to lead a wanton eye into the picture, movement is across the picture, complimented by a colour scheme that advances rather than recedes. To this she adds a stillness of time and motion transfixed, typified by the two motionless walking figures, a characteristic motif of paradox in Beckett's landscapes. There is also her preference for overall pictorial interest rather than a point of focus. By such means, Clarice Beckett transformed the Beaumaris landscapes near her home into poetic transcripts in which subtlety and sensibility are the bywords. Beckett's awareness of the formal qualities of her paintings is summed up in her comment, 'My pictures like music should speak for themselves.'2 Her use of colour, form, rhythm and tone are close to music, as is the quietude of her nocturnes, delightful of harmony. The seeming simplicity of her paintings is disarming. Yet, they are as complex as their Oriental sense of space and selectivity.

1. 'Vases and Flowers. Miss Beckett's Art', Sun News - Pictorial, Melbourne, 5 June 1923, p. 9
2. Quoted in Hollinrake, R., Clarice Beckett: Politically Incorrect, The Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, 1999, p. 19