Important Women Artists
10 November 2021


born 1930

oil on plywood

121.0 x 86.0 cm

signed and dated lower right: 1967 Y Audette
signed, dated and inscribed with title verso: 1967 / Audette / Lines on the grey wall

$80,000 – $120,000
Sold for $147,273 (inc. BP) in Auction 65 - 10 November 2021, Melbourne

Private collection, Melbourne


Heathcote, C., Adams, B., Vaughan, G., & Grant, K., Yvonne Audette: Paintings and Drawings 1949 – 2003, Macmillan, Melbourne, 2003, pl. 119, p. 188 (illus.)

Catalogue text


Yvonne Audette, Vaucluse, Sydney, 1968
(printed 2000)
Photographer: David Moore
gelatin silver photograph on paper
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
© Lisa, Michael, Matthew and Joshua Moore

After fourteen years overseas, Yvonne Audette returned to Australia in 1966, bringing with her Lines on the Grey Wall, 1967 - one of many paintings which had been started in Italy, but was not yet finished. Complex, multi-layered abstractions, Audette’s works evolve over time, ‘each painting… the product of months, sometimes years, spent deliberating over how the next stage should be approached and resolved.’1 As Christopher Heathcote has outlined, her studio process is slow and considered, ‘mixing paint and applying a few strokes, then stepping back to assess the results, sometimes wiping off marks just added and attempting an alternative solution.’2

Audette’s experience in New York during the early 1950s had brought her face to face with Abstract Expressionism, as well as various alternative approaches to contemporary abstraction, and her sketchbooks from the time document these influences: ‘Architectural structure of de Kooning. Let go of all figuration – Calligraphic gesture of Kline – Today I saw Tomlin’s work – it has the structure I am seeking – Calligraphic work with free gesture has endless possibilities.’3 It was later, in 1958 – by which time Audette had established herself as part of a community of professional artists in Florence – that she met the American artist Cy Twombly, whose unique visual language would be similarly influential. Both artists shared a fascination with the random marks found on walls in ancient Italian streets and for Audette, this accumulated graffiti represented a form of ‘direct visual poetry’ which spoke to the deep history of the place and its people, and soon became a trademark of her painterly repertoire.4

Begun in the early 1960s, Lines on the Grey Wall is typical of the compositions Audette produced around this time. Delicate yet dense, the image is built up through accretions of form and colour, intuitive lines, shapes and scribbles painted with the brush, alongside passages applied with a palette knife. While some marks are decisive, those seen through the broad patches of pale-coloured paint reveal the importance of layering and erasure within Audette’s technique. The influence of Asian art and calligraphy is also apparent. In addition to undertaking classes with a Zen painting teacher in New York, Audette was exposed to the work of numerous artists who incorporated calligraphic brushwork into their take on abstraction (Franz Kline, Mark Tobey and Pierre Alechinsky, for example), and she in turn did the same. The closely related (and similarly titled) painting, The Grey Wall with Lines, 1957 (Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art) was included in the Guggenheim Museum publication, The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989, as an example of this influence and the significance of New York ‘as an international center for the forging and disseminating of Asian conceptions of abstraction.’5

Audette’s long-term expatriate status meant that her work was rarely seen in Australia during the 1950s and 60s, however it was exhibited in numerous solo shows in Florence, Milan, Paris, Rome and London. A rare female member of the generation of artists born in Australia between the wars, she established a successful career and has since been recognised for her singular contribution, being awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in 2020 for significant service to the visual arts as an abstract painter. 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. Heathcote, C., ‘Yvonne Audette: The Early Years’ in Heathcote, C., et. al., Yvonne Audette: Paintings and Drawings 1949-2003, Macmillan, Melbourne, 2003, p. 33
2. Ibid.
3. The artist quoted in Grant, K., Yvonne Audette: Different Directions 1954-1966, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2008, n.p.
4. Artist’s notes, ‘Grey Wall with Lines’, undated, quoted ibid.
5. See Munroe, A., The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989, exhibition catalogue, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2009. The Grey Wall with Lines was requested for loan for the exhibition but excluded on a technicality as she had given up her American citizenship soon after returning to Australia.