We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Fields, factories and gaols



Ken Whisson


12 Dec 1927 – 23 Feb 2022

  • Details

    Media category
    Materials used
    oil on canvas
    100.4 x 117.6 cm sight; 103.2 x 123.4 x 3.5 cm frame
    Signature & date

    Signed and dated c., verso on canvas [upside down], blue ball-point pen? "Ken Whisson/ 7/11/88/ 27/12/88".
    Dated top c. verso on stretcher, blue ball-point pen "17/11/88 + 27/12/88".
    Dated u.l. verso on stretcher [vertically], blue ball-point pen "7/11/88 + 27/12/88".

    Gift of the artist 2021. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gift Program
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Estate of Ken Whisson

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Ken Whisson

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Ken Whisson is a senior artist who came to prominence in the wake of the figurative expressionist movement in Melbourne in the 1940s and 50s. Drawn to Europe's culture and turbulent social and political climate, Whisson relocated to Perugia, in central Italy, in the late 1970s, just as he had begun to receive recognition in Australia. This painting, which was produced in the late 1980s, is typical of Whisson's Perugia period works. Here, he allows the white background to peer through brightly coloured, floating shapes and lines which shift and coalesce into new forms the longer we look at the picture. The barely discernible urban motifs, such as the silhouettes of factories, speak to Whisson's enduring interest in the real world despite the seeming abstraction of his subjects.

    'Fields, factories and gaols' was painted in two sittings, as indicted by the dual dates, suggesting that it was produced, at least partly, from memory. It seems that time passing, and image retention are as important as the subject matter described in the title and alluded to in the imagery.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 1 publication

    • John McDonald, Ken Whisson: a survey, 'Ken Whisson and the life of forms', pg. 4-7, Melbourne, 1990, 6, 7 (colour illus.), 19. cat.no. 29

Other works by Ken Whisson

See all 18 works