(Australia, England 1927–1982)
119.5 x 152.0cm board; 133.3 x 165.2 x 4.0cm frame
Fred Williams was born and trained in Melbourne, at the National Gallery School and the George Bell Art School during the 1940s. At the end of 1951 he left for London and further study, returning to Australia in 1957. During these formative years he focused on depictions of the figure in his art. However, when he returned to Melbourne he redirected his attention to the Australian environment, exploring this subject as a platform for formal invention in his practice. With this as his creative directive, Williams embarked on a seminal series of paintings in the 1960s that changed the way many people viewed the Australian landscape.
Williams first visited the You Yangs – the landscape of granite ridges situated between Melbourne and Geelong in Victoria – in the winter of 1962. Working in situ, he began painting his observations in watercolour, developing these studies in his studio into a series of radically abstracted paintings. ‘You Yangs landscape’ 1963 is one of his great achievements in this group of works. It exemplifies Williams’s distinct vision of the landscape that combines a feel for its expanse with suggestions of its nuanced forms.
‘You Yangs landscape’ demonstrates how Williams negated the horizon line in his work (which, historically, had been key to Western landscape painting) and offered instead a more spatially ambiguous ordering of the countryside. The picture plane is tilted and imaged as an unstructured space, where gestural abstract markings and dotted areas of intricate paint work are used to invoke the landscape’s scattering of trees, rocks and fencing in abbreviated form.
In the traditions of 20th century Australian landscape painting, Williams positioned himself as ‘a link between Nolan and Drysdale: Nolan the irrational, Drysdale the formal’.1 He had derived his model of abstraction from studying the structural order of cubist painting as well as the work of Paul Cézanne. Yet as ‘You Yangs landscape’ demonstrates, Williams used this formal approach to imply the experience of place; where his aesthetic of dots and dashes act like memory’s truncated visual mapping of landscapes and evokes a sense of being immersed in its forms.
1 Fred Williams quoted in Craig McGragor, Qantas Airways, March/April 1985, p20
Deborah Hart (South Africa; United Kingdom; Australia, b.1959) (Author), Fred Williams: infinite horizons, Canberra, 2011, 63 (colour illus.), 64, 226.
Jaynie Anderson (Editor), The Cambridge companion to Australian Art, Port Melbourne, 2011, 8, 346. fig.no. 1.10 (colour illus.), between pg. 44 and 45.
Maudie Palmer (b.1944) (Editor), Encounters with Australian modern art, South Yarra, 2008, 84 (colour illus.). NOTE: Related work reproduced. Titled 'You Yangs III, 1963, private collection.
'Celebrating Fred Williams' by Hendrik Kolenberg, pg. 24-25., Look Nov 2004, Nov 2004, 24.
Hendrik Kolenberg (Netherlands; Australia) (Author), Anne Ryan (Australia) (Author), Fred Williams: from music hall to landscape, drawings and prints, Domain, 2001, 12 (colour illus.). illus.no. 1
Barry Pearce (Australia) (Author), Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Domain, 2000, 252 (colour illus.), 302.
Aspects of Australian art 2000, 2000, (colour illus.). card no. 12: Fred Williams 'You Yangs landscape' 1963
Louise Sweetland (Australia) (Editor), Edmund Capon (England; Australia, b.1940) (Author), Elizabeth Cross (Australia, b.1943) (Author), Barry Pearce (Australia) (Author), Southern Reflections: 10 contemporary Australian artists, Domain, 1998, 40 (colour illus.). fig.no. 12
Ursula Prunster (Australia) (Curator), Australian painters; Seeing Cézanne, Sydney, 1998, 31. cat.no. 58
Ewen McDonald (Australia) (Editor), The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, Sydney, 1994, 68, 69 (colour illus.).
Annabel Davie (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales Handbook, Domain, 1988, 33 (illus.), 34.
Barry Pearce (Australia) (Author), Patrick McCaughey (Northern Ireland; Australia, b.1943) (Author), Twentieth century Australian masterworks from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Fred Williams Pilbara Series, Tokyo, 1985, 47 (colour illus.). cat.no. 28
Edmund Capon (England; Australia, b.1940) (Editor), Jan Meek (Australia) (Editor), Portrait of a Gallery, Sydney, 1984, 71 (colour illus.).
Project 41 - the mosaic, the grid, Sydney, 1983. cat.no. 10
Art Gallery of New South Wales (Australia, estab. 1874) (Author), Three years on: a selection of acquisitions 1978-1981, Sydney, 1981, 6, 26 (colour illus.). cat.no. 47
Three years on: Acquisitions 1978-81, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 15 Oct 1981–01 Dec 1981.
Project 41: The mosaic -The grid (1983), Art Gallery of New South Wales, 25 Mar 1983–24 Apr 1983.
Twentieth century Australian masterworks from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Fred Williams Pilbara series from the collection of CRA Limited, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, 04 Oct 1985–06 Nov 1985.
Australian Painters Seeing Cézanne, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 28 Nov 1998–17 Jan 1999.
Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000.
Fred Williams: infinite horizons, National Gallery of Australia, 12 Aug 2011–06 Nov 2011.
Fred Williams: infinite horizons, Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 07 Apr 2012–05 Aug 2012.
Fred Williams: infinite horizons, Art Gallery of South Australia, 31 Aug 2012–04 Nov 2012.