Important Australian + International Fine Art
16 August 2023


(1923 - 2000)

oil on composition board

60.0 x 75.5 cm

signed and dated lower left: Perceval ‘58

$90,000 – $120,000

Artlovers Gallery, Sydney (label attached verso)
Private collection
Sotheby’s, Sydney, 17 November 1988, lot 426
Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne
Henry Krongold, Melbourne, acquired from the above in 1991
The Estate of Paul Krongold, Melbourne


John Perceval: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 30 April – 12 July 1992, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 6 August – 20 September 1992 (label attached verso)


Allen, T., John Perceval, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1992, p. 159

Catalogue text

Landscape with sheep, 1958, is one of a group of paintings by John Perceval which have their genesis in his exploration of the abandoned gold mines around Gaffneys Creek near Eildon, 200 kilometres north-east of Melbourne. He travelled there in the company of Arthur Boyd, Hal Hattam and Clive Brown in 1956, with all four probably crammed into Perceval’s brand-new lime green Volkswagen Beetle. Until this moment, Perceval was predominantly a studio painter but having a reliable car (prior to this, he had been driving Boyd’s ancient Dodge truck) opened up new possibilities, and ‘the thick wooded country of Gaffneys Creek [triggered] an important shift into denser forms and knitted textures in Perceval’s work.’.1

Perceval first exhibited his Gaffneys Creek paintings alongside those of the Williamstown docks at the Australian Galleries for their inaugural show in November 1956. Full of boisterous colour and activity, the show caused a sensation with Charles Blackman, for one, championing the artist’s ‘wonderfully ecstatic…very free and very beautiful’ technique.’2 On close examination, it is evident that the creek’s environs were not the only source for these images; rather, the wildness of the region formed an aesthetic, even emotional, core for the paintings. Concurrently, Perceval was also spending much of his time in the forested regions of Eltham, particularly with his colleague Neil Douglas whose property was surrounded by virgin bushland. Additionally, the back garden of Perceval’s house in Canterbury was a joyously tangled affair right next to the artist’s studio. Between 1957 and 1960, he spent three weeks each winter with Jon Molvig in Brisbane, and would soon buy land near Clifton Pugh’s property at Cottles Bridge; who at the time was creating undergrowth paintings marked by a pronounced spikiness. All these divergent experiences were inevitably incorporated into Perceval’s paintings and as his colleague Barret Reid noted, ‘(his) landscape receives its cue from the bush but it becomes an experience of surface, a landscape of touch as well as sight.’3 In Landscape with sheep, this description rings true from the obvious decay of the timber-and-rope bridge to the wonderfully realised wooliness of the sheep, who huddle en masse to the right before undertaking the precarious walk above the swirling waters of the creek. Perceval deliberately uses a darkened palette, suggestive of a somewhat melancholy, even treacherous, undercurrent to the Australian bush.

Landscape with sheep bears striking similarities to other notable works from the period including Goat in the cabbages, 1956, and Wild Goats, Gaffneys Creek, 1956, both of which were included in the landmark exhibition at Australian Galleries. In subsequent years, Perceval’s landscapes were awarded the John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize (National Gallery of Victoria) in 1958; the Maude Vizard-Wholohan Prize (Art Gallery of South Australia) the following year; and the Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1960.                                                           

1. Plant, M., John Perceval, Lansdowne Australian Art Library, Melbourne, 1971, p. 60
2. Shapcott, T., The Art of Charles Blackman, Andre Deutsch, London, 1989, p. 23
3. Reid, B., Of Light and Dark: the art of John Perceval, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1992, p. 83