"My enthusiasm was fired by the von Guérard Waterfall, Strath Creek in the Sydney Gallery. It was a picture I've always admired and I made a free copy of it about fifteen years ago and had forgotten it and put it aside ... One day
I woke up and thought, well actually I wouldn't mind going around and looking at more of them."
- Fred Williams 1981
One of the most important works of Williams' entire oeuvre, 'Waterfall polyptych' uniquely demonstrates Williams' capacity for formal inventiveness through landscape.
In February 1979 he visited the Lal Lal Falls to the west of Melbourne near Ballarat, painting four successive canvases to recreate the dramatic alteration in light during the day. He then painted 'Waterfall polyptych', re-inventing the monumental dark indigo form and spectacular scale of the waterfall to evoke his subject as a miraculous element in the rocky landscape. As in other paintings from Williams' waterfall series, key influences came from Oriental art and from Cézanne's late paintings of the quarry at Bibémus.
Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000
oil on canvas
four panels: each panel 153.0 x 122.0 cm stretcher; each panel 154.0 x 123.5 x 6.3 cm frame; 154.0 x 494.0 x 6.3 cm overall :
a - left panel; 153 x 122 cm
b - centre left panel; 153 x 122 cm
c - centre right panel; 153 x 122 cm
d - right panel; 153 x 122 cm
Signature & date
Signed l.l. right panel, black oil "Fred Williams". Not dated.
Purchased with assistance from the H.G. Slater Foundation 1980
Not on display
© Estate of Fred Williams
Shown in 5 exhibitions
Three years on: acquisitions 1978-81, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Oct 1981–01 Dec 1981
Two centuries of Australian painting, a selection from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Orange Regional Gallery, Australia, 19 Apr 1986–15 Jun 1986
Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000
Australian Collection Focus: Waterfall, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 May 2006–16 Jul 2006
Fred Williams: infinite horizons:
Referenced in 13 publications
Helen Campbell, Look, 'Waterfall: an inspiration to travellers and artists', pg. 19, Sydney, Jun 2006, 19.
Deborah Edwards, Two centuries of Australian painting: a selection from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Introduction', pg. 8-14, Sydney, 1986, 46 (illus.). cat.no. 53
Deborah Hart, Fred Williams: infinite horizons, 'Rediscovering landscape', pg. 132-155, Canberra, 2011, 138, 164, 170, 171, 172-173 (colour illus.), 211 (colour illus.) [panel a], 229.
Deborah Hart, Fred Williams: infinite horizons: secondary school education resource, Canberra, 2011, (colour illus.) [panel c]. 'Art history' card
Hendrik Kolenberg, Look, 'Celebrating Fred Williams', pg. 24-25, Sydney, Nov 2004, 24.
Patrick McCaughey, Fred Williams 1927-1982, 'Thematic landscapes: 1975-81. Pool, mountain, gorge and waterfall', pg. 272-305, Kensington, 1987, 302-303, 304-305 (colour illus.). plate no. 192
James Mollison, A singular vision: the art of Fred Williams, Canberra, 1989, 224-225, 224-225 (colour illus.).
James Mollison (Curator), Fred Williams: a retrospective, Canberra, 1987, 29 (illus.).
Barry Pearce, Fifteen decades of Australian paintings, Sydney, 1981, 34-35 (colour illus.). cat.no. 15
Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Landscape and gesture', pg. 239-240, Sydney, 2000, 254-255 (colour illus.), 302.
Barry Pearce, Three years on: a selection of acquisitions 1978-1981, 'Australian Art', pg. 5-26, Sydney, 1981, 6, 7, 24 (illus.). cat.no. 49
Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 33, 34.
Judith White, Look, 'An artist's homage', pg. 18-20, Melbourne, Feb 2000, 20.