Important Australian + International Fine Art
21 April 2021


born 1936

oil on canvas

56.5 x 66.0 cm

signed lower left: William Robinson
inscribed with title verso: POSSUM MOON LANDSCAPE

$30,000 – 40,000
Sold for $51,545 (inc. BP) in Auction 64 - 21 April 2021, Melbourne

Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, New South Wales, acquired from the above, c.1996

Catalogue text

When Possum Moon Landscape was painted, Bill and Shirley Robinson were living on two hundred acres of bush, rainforest and cliffs at Beechmont in southern Queensland, where they had moved to in 1984. The works from around this time can be viewed as autobiographical vignettes often containing playful anecdotes about Bill and Shirley’s life on the farm.

By the time Robinson had painted this delightful example he had won his first of two Archibald Prize awards for portraiture, and was on the cusp of winning the first of two Wynne Prizes for landscape painting. He had retired from teaching to work full time on his painting and his regular exhibitions at Ray Hughes Gallery were consistently sell out shows. This, along with the broad critical support the artist enjoyed ensured that by 1989, Robinson’s career was on the ascendancy.

While Robinson took his approach to the Australian landscape very seriously, he often found room for pockets of humour which, in some ways, defuse the seriousness intent of the works. In the current example we see Bill and Shirley rounding up a few stray cows that appear to have found their way into the property dam. Images of dams and waterholes played an important role in the development of his landscape painting. They first appeared in the ‘farmyard paintings’ and via the reflection of the surrounding animals, trees and clouds, the water became the pictorial device that allowed Robinson to break with convention and move the horizontal horizon line to any part of the picture he chose.

Bill and Shirley took great delight in their lives as hobby farmers the images Robinson created of their life on the farm have an Adam and Eve quality, perhaps because there are only ever the two of them depicted in these works. Possum Moon Landscape was painted at the time Robinson was beginning to expand his ideas around distorting the plane. In this classic example, we can see the evening sky drawn down deep into the picture. Robinson describes the origins of this development… To look up and down almost at the same time; to have a feeling of time; the beginning and movement of day and night and be aware of the revolving planet may revealed in the same work. I did not paint these works as a visitor to the landscape, but as one who lived in it and experiences it every day. The boundaries of my pictures were almost solely the boundaries and close neighbourhood of our farm.1

Late evening is suggested by Bill holding his kerosene lamp with its halo of light echoing the crescent moon setting low in the west. And what of the Possum which features so prominently in the title of the work? It makes the most minor cameo appearance in the upper right of the work near Bill, Shirley and the cows. The mention of possum points to Robinson’s arial views, suggesting that perhaps we are viewing the landscape from high in the trees looking downward as the possum does. So while the image of the possum is tiny, its importance to the work is overarching.

1.Robinson, W., quoted in Klepac, L., William Robinson: Paintings 1987 – 2000, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2001, p. 40