Important Australian + International Fine Art
28 August 2019


(1872 – 1952)

oil on wood panel

26.5 x 35.0 cm

signed lower left: Carrick Fox
bears inscription on old label verso: Flower Market

$25,000 – 35,000
Sold for $61,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 58 - 28 August 2019, Sydney

Private collection, Cheltenham, United Kingdom
Private collection, London

Catalogue text

The flower market was a popular subject for Ethel Carrick Fox, providing ideal opportunities for creating lively figure subjects in masses of bright colour with the rapid handling of paint. The immediacy of Flower Market, c.1926 and other like paintings is a fundamental part of their appeal, the captured moment enticing the senses. By now, the sketch for Carrick, compared with the thoroughness of the academic approach, had become the finished work of art. Faces are left blank so as not to divert, nor other detail detract, achieving a pleasing overall harmony, wedded to vivacious surfaces.

Carrick’s interest in life, colour and flowers was so infectious that it readily caught the eye of the French critics. Henri Breuil, writing for the Parisian Les Tendances Nouvelles, praised the work she exhibited in the 1908 Salon d’Automne with the apt comment:

Mlle Ethel Carrick fires the enthusiasm of art lovers. One might compare her paintings to bouquets of flowers. Nothing could be more precise or more loving. The quiet modesty of the artist conceals real knowledge about how to see, how to place the strokes side by side and to understand … .1

Carrick exhibited in all the major Paris salons, especially the modernist Salon d’Automne of which she was a sociétaire. Over the years, her paintings of the flower markets of Paris, Chartres and elsewhere provided many highlights. Marché aux Fleurs, for example, was exhibited in the 1910 salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and others of Nice were shown in the 1932 salon. Again, Marché aux Fleurs (Nice) was in the 1927 Salon d’Automne.

Flower Market, c.1926, the painting on offer, displays striking use of inventive form, particularly in the angularity of the colourful blooms’ wrapped presentation. This same wrapping appeared years before in French Flower Market, 1909 (private collection) with much less emphasis.2 A comparison of the two paintings reveals many changes. The belle époque elegance of the latter has given way to the more robust age of the former, the twenties reflected in dress, greater informality of composition and painterly freedom. An absorbing feeling for the abstract inspires much of Carrick’s work. Bold, repetitive shapes evoke a celebratory note. A seeming chorus line dances across the picture surface, as form is allied to colour. In its illusion of the visual world, the background of sparkling sunlight contrasts with and balances the weighty darkness of structures and costumes.

Of Carrick’s paintings devoted to the market, special mention must be made of the notable Flower Market (France), c.1910 (McClelland Gallery + Sculpture Park, Victoria), Flower Stall, c.1920s (Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria), and those later works of Nice, In the Nice Flower Market, c.1926, (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra) and Flower Vendors, Nice, c.1930, (Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth). Le Marché aux Fleurs, c.1928, is in the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen. Among these, Flower Market provides a carnival of colour, light and form, in which the illusion of reality is enlivened by abstract invention.

1. Breuil, H., ‘Promenade travers les Salons de Salon d’Automne’, Les Tendances Nouvelles, Paris, vol. 30, no. 39, December 1908, quoted in Goddard, A., ‘An artistic marriage’, Art, Love and Life: Ethel Carrick and E. Phillips Fox, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2011, p. 24
2. French Flower Market, 1909, illustrated in Goddard, op. cit., p. 69