Important Australian + International Fine Art
3 May 2023


born 1936

oil on linen

72.0 x 87.0 cm

signed lower right: William Robinson
bears inscription on stretcher bar verso: “CHOOK YARD WITH BATH-TANK”

$100,000 – $140,000
Sold for $122,727 (inc. BP) in Auction 74 - 3 May 2023, Melbourne

Art Galleries Schubert, Queensland (label attached verso)
Private collection
Phillips Auctioneers, Sydney, 23 May 2000, lot 25
Private collection
Deutscher~Menzies, Melbourne, 1 May 2002, lot 23
Private collection, Victoria

Catalogue text

It would be foolish to dismiss Robinson’s early Farmyard paintings as quirky humorous vignettes. These portrayals of the animals and farm detritus that occupied Robinson’s hobby farm are complex compositional arrangements, which ultimately pointed to way towards Robinson’s celebrated mature landscapes. When these works were initially exhibited at the Ray Hughes Gallery in Brisbane, Robinson was exhibiting alongside the Australian artist Ken Whisson (1927 – 2022). Whisson, by now had been resident in Italy for several years, while Robinson was still teaching at the Kelvin Grove campus of the CAE; a position he would keep until he retired in 1989 to begin painting full time. At around this time, Robinson’s compositional experiments had him poised on the precipice of convention and his exposure to the rigour of Whisson’s approach may well have metaphorically eased him over.

The whimsical farmyard paintings are in fact variable compositional arrangements, each one a further version of the other. The cows become regular features of his work and are recognisable by the names as we have come to know them through other examples. In the Chook Yard with Bath-Tank, c.1984, Josephine peers suspiciously from behind the water tank and Rosie trots at pace towards the viewer – farmer – artist. As the years passed, Robinson’s view finder would zoom out and away from the features of the farm and begin to take in the surrounding landscape. And it was from this base that the majestic works he is best known for developed. In the years that followed he would exhibit annually at the Ray Hughes Gallery. The group of artists that exhibited with Ray Hughes in those years would pursue major art prizes such as the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman as a pack. Robinson would go on to win the Archibald and Wynne prizes twice; Davida Allen and Keith Looby from the same stable would also win the Archibald Prize.

Robinson’s place in the canon of Australian art has long been secured. His landscape paintings in the years since these farmyard works began are considered among the most accomplished in the land. Whereas many landscape painters were drawn to the romantic heroics of the outback however, Robinson stuck to the lush hinterland of the east coast. In the mid-nineties following trips to Europe, his paintings gained a profound spiritual resonance as the artist looked closer to the heavens as the source of his inspiration – a long way from these humble farmyard paintings that were the springboard for the towering, spiritual crescendos that followed.