Important Australian + International Fine Art
14 September 2022


born 1936

oil on canvas

48.5 x 55.5 cm

signed lower right: William Robinson
inscribed with title verso: SUNSET ENCOUNTER

$40,000 – $60,000
Sold for $79,773 (inc. BP) in Auction 71 - 14 September 2022, Sydney

Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney
Jack Manton, Queensland
Thence by descent
Jennifer Manton, Sydney
Estate of the above, Sydney


William Robinson, Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney, 28 October – 22 November 1989

Catalogue text

This delightful, whimsical painting by Robinson is typical of the artist at the time. Robinson was gaining great critical recognition for his work, and both he and his wife Shirley were enjoying the commercial success that came with it. Accordingly, Sunset Encounter, c.1988 has a happy, celebratory feel, depicting Bill and Shirley as they jaunt about their recently purchased bush property at Beechmont, rounding up stray cows, and generally cavorting and delighting in each-other’s company. Bill Robinson, the artist, is shown riding his horse; the same horse on which he depicted himself in his first of two Archibald Prize winning portraits, Equestrian Self-Portrait, 1987. 

In Robinson’s own words, he explains the genesis of his work from this period: ‘The story of these paintings begins in 1984, when I moved from a small farm to two hundred acres of bush, rainforest and cliffs at Beechmont in Southern Queensland. This landscape was very elusive to me and I began to paint it with the figures of Shirley and William walking in it with cows and wildlife. I tried to describe the feeling of being in the landscape and walking around in it – climbing grassy hills looking up through the gum trees to the sky, and down steep cliffs to the valley below; being blown by strong winds, caught in the lightning and rain; being in the landscape with a torch looking for cows and with the night sky so brilliant with the moon and stars, encountering dingos, snakes, kangaroos and birds.’1

Robinson often deploys humour in his portraits and also references other artists’ work. For example, his second Archibald prize Self-Portrait with Stunned Mullet, 1994 takes its cheeky smile from William Hogarth’s The Shrimp Girl, 1740 – 45, while in Equestrian Self-Portrait, 1987, together with the present example, the artist parodies European noblemen as they preferred to have themselves portrayed – perched high upon a fine steed while prancing about in full military regalia. Thus, Robinson here depicts himself as the hero riding forth to rescue Shirley who is shown marooned on a rock surrounded by water, as she waves her arms gesturing in a theatrical, ‘only you can save me William’ manner. The corona effect around Bill and his steed echoes the sunset beyond and alludes to the haste and passion with which Bill races toward Shirley in anticipation of their ‘sunset encounter’.  

Another example of Robinson’s quirky humour – the type that Bill and Shirley would have shared and enjoyed over their lifetime together – the painting attests to the centrality of Shirley’s image in Robinson’s work – as important as any other subject, if not more so. The partnership they shared and the manner in which Bill included Shirley in his work reflects their devotion to one another and records one of the great love stories of Australian art.

1. Klepac, L., William Robinson, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2001, p. 40