Important Australian + International Fine Art
4 May 2022


(1927 - 1982)

gouache on paper 

57.0 x 75.5 cm

signed lower right: Fred Williams.

$50,000 – $70,000
Sold for $85,909 (inc. BP) in Auction 69 - 4 May 2022, Sydney

The Estate of the artist, Melbourne
Mrs Lyn Williams, Melbourne
Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney (labels attached verso)
Collection of John Piddick and Ruth Matheson
Olsen Irwin, Sydney (label attached verso)
Private collection, Sydney, acquired from the above in 2014 


Fred Williams, Recent paintings and related etchings, Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Art Sydney 06, RHI and Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, 22 – 25 June 2006 (label attached verso)
Important Works from Private Collections, Olsen Irwin, Sydney, 7 – 25 May 2014

Catalogue text

We are grateful to Brenda Martin Thomas, wife of the late David Thomas AM, for kindly allowing us to reproduce David's research and writing in this catalogue entry.
Hillside Landscape, Cavan III, 1977 is one of a series of gouaches which Fred Williams painted at Cavan during a visit he made in August of that year to the historic property owned by Rupert Murdoch. Located on the Murrumbidgee River near Yass in New South Wales, it offered Williams that characteristic monotony and hidden variety of detail in the Australian landscape which so appealed to him. While the rise of a hill or a weather-worn flat may attract the eye, the absence of focus led Williams to build it into the paint – dabs, swirls, and strokes of colour, enriched textures, broad washes nuanced with subtleties and creamy surfaces all testimony to his great gifts as a colourist. The same is found in two related gouaches of similar size – both entitled Cavan, 1977 – in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney;  and an untitled landscape of Cavan gifted to Canberra's National Gallery of Australia in 2005 by Alcoa World Alumina Australia. Idiosyncratically individual in their presentation of the landscape, each follows the convention of earth below and sky above, with that two-dimensional feel engineered by emphasis on the picture plane, adding to the distinct edge of the horizon and sense of something beyond. Generating a mood of expectancy, it harmonises with the abiding sense of timelessness, of a land reaching back to the primordial – powerfully present and moving. In choosing the Australian landscape above all, Williams said in the year of his Cavan paintings, 'I must be inside looking out - not outside looking in'.1 Williams' gouaches, through the greater informality of the medium, allow a more personally felt response to slip through. Gouache has always been an important medium for Williams, who held his first public gallery exhibition of 'watercolours' at the Newcastle Art Gallery in 1971. Significantly in 1977, the same year as Hillside Landscape, Cavan III was painted, Williams held a solo show of his gouaches at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

1. The artist, quoted in Hart, D., Fred Williams: Infinite Horizons, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2011, p. 157