Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 April 2009

James Gleeson

(1915 - 2008)

oil on canvas

134.0 x 200.0 cm

signed and dated lower left: Gleeson ‘00

$60,000 - 80,000
Sold for $60,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 8 - 29 April 2009, Melbourne

Watters Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, New South Wales


James Gleeson, The Riddle of the Clouds, (Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival), Watters Gallery, Sydney, 26 September – 14 October 2000, cat. 1
James Gleeson: Beyond the Screen of Sight, a retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 29 October 2004 – 27 February 2005, and the National Gallery of Australia, 18 March – 13 June 2005


Gleeson, J., The Riddle of the Clouds, Watters Gallery, Sydney, 2000, cat. 1 (illus.)
Kolenberg, H. & Ryan, A., James Gleeson: Drawings for Paintings, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2003, p. 121 (illus.)
Klepac, L., James Gleeson: Beyond the Screen of Sight, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2004, pp 175, 200, cat. 81 p. 175 (illus.)

Catalogue text

'In the day to day inevitability of physical existence, artists guide us through dimensions dividing the visible from the invisible. Optical appearance will always be an incomplete thing, a skin beneath which hide ineffable truths that may only be accessed through the language of feelings.'1

James Gleeson occupies a unique place within Australian art history as not only a painter of particular vision, but also an accomplished writer, curator and art historian. His sphere of influence reaches across the conventional bounds of artistic endeavor and his legacy as a painter is one which is defined by a sustained and rigorous investigation of what it is to be human.

Completed in early 2000 whilst at the height of Gleeson's career as a painter, The Riddle of the Clouds is a dynamic and potent work that represents the culmination of over fifty years of dedicated practice. Included in the 2004 retrospective exhibition, James Gleeson: Beyond Screen of Sight at the National Gallery of Victoria, the painting contains all the visceral urgency, emotional gravity and sense of awe which set the artist's work apart.

As noted by Ken Wach, Gleeson's paintings, 'may be seen as human documents drafted in a new language of visual forms that evinces a world beyond objective and social verities. It is a language enlivened by the pregnant metaphors and fertile methods of Surrealism and personalized by a richly invested study of literature and mythology. Gleeson has always been aware of the restrictions of the meager information of our five senses and his work is motivated by the philosophical urgency that questions the external world, while remaining responsive to its grandeur and majesty.'2

1. Pearce, B., 'The Enduring Image', Australian Art in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2000, p. 266
2. Wach, K., 'James Gleeson and Surrealism: The Inexhaustible Murmur', James Gleeson: Beyond Screen of Sight, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2005, p. 46