Important Australian + International Fine Art
10 April 2019


born 1930

oil on composition board

93.5 x 130.0 cm

signed and dated lower right: Audette 64
signed, dated and inscribed with title verso: Audette / 1964 / conversation between the stars

$70,000 – 90,000
Sold for $85,400 (inc. BP) in Auction 57 - 10 April 2019, Sydney

Collection of the artist, Melbourne
Michael Whitworth, Sydney
Private collection, Queensland, acquired from the above in 2008


Yvonne Audette, Galleria Schneider, Rome, 22 April – 10 May 1965, cat. 5
Yvonne Audette: Different Directions 1954 – 1966, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 13 September 2007 – 17 February 2008 (lent by Michael Whitworth) (label attached verso)


Heathcote, C., Adams, B., Vaughan, G., & Grant, K., Yvonne Audette: Paintings and Drawings 1949 – 2003, Macmillan, Melbourne, 2003, pl.100, pp.134 – 135 (illus.)
Grant, K., Yvonne Audette: Different Directions, 1954 – 1966, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2008 (unpaginated)

Catalogue text

Following studies at the Julian Ashton Art School, East Sydney Technical College and independent classes with Desiderius Orban and Godfrey Miller, Yvonne Audette left Australia in September 1952. Like so many young Australian artists she wanted to see the great art of the world, but unusually for the time she sailed to New York rather than London or Paris. Influenced by her American-born parents’ agreement to provide financial support if she went there rather than to Europe, this decision proved to be fortuitous, bringing her face to face with the burgeoning New York School of Abstract Expressionist painting. Audette’s first-hand exposure to the work of major exponents of the movement, including Willem de Kooning (whose studio she visited in 1953), Robert Motherwell and Mark Tobey, had a profound effect on her artistic development and while her training had been in the academic figurative mode, she began to move confidently towards abstraction. Notes in sketchbooks from the time document her thinking, ‘Let go of all figuration … Calligraphic work with free gesture has endless possibilities’ and the gentle exhortation, ‘Don’t get too sophisticated’.1

Leaving New York in mid-1955, Audette travelled in Europe before establishing a studio in Florence.2 Welcomed into a community of successful professional artists including Arnaldo Pomodoro and Lucio Fontana, and stimulated by both their example and the rich culture and history of her new surroundings, she worked hard, developing a mature style characterised by the textural layering of line and abstract form, dextrous mark-making and a lyrical use of colour. Painted in 1964, Conversation Between the Stars reflects the unique amalgam of influences that contributed to Audette’s visual language, from the blunt-ended lines applied with a palette knife of American painter Bradley Walker Tomlin, to the graffiti-like marks found on ancient Italian walls and echoing the spontaneous gesture of Cy Twombly (who she met in Rome in 1958). Audette’s paintings are often likened to a palimpsest, ‘an accretion of written shapes … stirring with the ghosts of earlier writings vanquished by time, or by deliberate … erasure’3, in which layers of paint are progressively built up before being repeatedly scraped back and scratched into to create the shimmering translucency and chromatic energy of works such as this.

While Audette’s work was rarely seen in Australia during her expatriate years, it was shown in various European cities (Florence, Milan, Paris, Rome and London) and CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE STARS was included in her solo exhibition at Galleria Schneider in Rome in 1965, the year before she returned home permanently. A rare female member of the generation of artists born in Australia between the wars who, through focussed ambition and in her case, fortuitous coincidence, established and maintained a long and successful career, Audette has since been recognised for her important contribution to the history of twentieth century art in this country. Acquisitions by major public galleries were followed by a series of institutional exhibitions – Queensland Art Gallery (1999), Heide Museum of Modern Art (2000), National Gallery of Victoria (2008), Ian Potter Museum of Art (2009) and the Art Gallery of Ballarat (2016) – and the publication of a major monograph in 2003.

1. The artist quoted in Grant, K., Yvonne Audette: Different Directions 1954-1966, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2008, unpaginated
2. Audette lived in Florence until 1963 when she relocated to Milan before returning to Australia permanently in 1966.
3. Gleeson, J., review of Audette’s 1968 Sydney exhibition at Bonython Gallery, quoted in James, B., ‘Yvonne Audette: The Later Years’, Heathcote, C., et. al., Yvonne Audette: Paintings and Drawings 1949-2003, Macmillan, Melbourne, 2003, p. 157