Important Fine Art and Aboriginal Art
30 November 2016


born 1936

oil on linen

110.0 x 162.0 cm

signed and dated lower left: William Robinson 2009
inscribed with title verso: CARNARVON GORGE AFTERNOON LIGHT

$ 150,000 – 200,000
Sold for $183,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 46 - 30 November 2016, Sydney

Australian Galleries, Melbourne (label attached verso)
Private collection, Melbourne


William Robinson: Twenty ink drawings, Eight paintings, One sculpture – New works 2009, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 27 April – 12 May 2010 and Australian Galleries, Sydney, 8 June – 27 June 2010 (illus. in exhibition catalogue, p. 71)

Catalogue text

By the time William Robinson came to paint his Carnarvon Gorge series he was already regarded as a great Australian landscape painter. With four of Australia’s most prestigious art prizes to his name (two Archibald and two Wynne prizes) as well as thirty eight solo exhibitions, the artist had every right to feel comfortable with the mantel. Robinson broke the mould when it came to painting the Australian landscape. Where many Australian artists of his generation have chosen to look inwards towards the outback’s desperate beauty, Robinson focussed almost entirely on the ancient rainforests and eucalypt forests of south east Queensland.

Robinson’s progress as a painter is easily charted as each of the artist’s exhibitions trumpeted his latest innovation or discovery. Carnarvon Gorge Afternoon Light, 2009 shows a further side to this development. The physical application of the paint is broader and softer as the artist’s staccato brush work has given way to a more contemplative, patient method of applying the paint. No longer does the colour fizz on the surface, but nestles gently in small pockets of form and mass. The urgency to capture the moment and draw it to a towering crescendo has given way to a rhetorical meditation on the picture itself. The forms have solidified; the rocks and trees have gained weight and exude permanence. Cézanne’s natures mortes feel nearby in the manner in which the rocks ascend the picture plane. Across the tops of the giant cliffs Robinson uses bright sunlight to reinforce the height, grandeur and timeless beauty of their ancient forms which dominate the forests. Robinson’s swirling horizons have almost settled, and you can sense the calmness that the artist himself must have felt as the painting unfolded.

In an essay on the consciousness of creativity, David Malouf describes Robinson’s Carnarvon Gorge paintings... It is the appeal these paintings make to the senses, and never more directly or more powerfully than in the grand panoramas of the Carnarvon Gorge: the play of paint on the canvas, the complex rhythms, the illusionistic conjuring with the effects of light and air in a technical display so easy, so un-insistent, that it looks like another form of nature. All this in celebration of the ancient landforms and vegetation of a bit of local earth whose vigorous being, and variety, and otherness is taken so deeply in by the observing eye, and so lovingly and movingly remade in the creator’s consciousness, as to make consciousness and the created world when we enter these painted landscapes, one. This is the special power of Robinson’s vision and of the visionary experience he offers us through the skill of his hand and the precision of his all encompassing gaze.1

The sensation when viewing these fuller, later Robinson paintings is one of contentment, the artist’s enjoyment, confidence and wonder at what he has achieved as a painter is all there in the finished painting. The near conventional perspective in the Carnarvon Gorge paintings is in itself an innovation when compared to the topsy-turvy, turbulent compositions with which the artist established his reputation.

Malouf, D., ‘Making consciousness and the created world’, William Robinson The Transfigured Landscape, QUT Press, Brisbane, 2011, p. 74