Melbourne-born Williams trained at the National Gallery School and the George Bell Art School in the 1940s. Returning after further study in London in the 1950s, he turned his attention from the figure to the Australian landscape, using it as a vehicle for formal invention. He was struck by its light, scale and monotony, which contrasted so strongly with Europe. His approach to abstraction came from studying the structural order of cubist painting as well as the work of Paul Cézanne.
You Yangs landscape 1963
In the 1960s, Williams started a series of paintings that changed the way many people view the Australian landscape. This is one of those works, depicting an area between Melbourne and Geelong known as the You Yangs, which he first visited in the winter of 1962.
Williams said he strove to depict the underlying bones rather the surface skin of the Australian continent. He abandoned the horizon line which, historically, had been key to Western landscape painting. Instead he offered an unstructured space, where abstract markings and dotted areas of paint work are used to invoke a scattering of trees, rocks and fencing in abbreviated form.
- View You Yangs landscape in the collection
This work on paper in the Gallery’s collection is closely related to the painting.