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Australian art

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Trees on hillside II



Fred Williams

Australia, England

23 Jan 1927 - 22 Apr 1982


"Williams has whittled away every excess from his style. He works with the economy of the Oriental artist. The effect of a landscape is expressed with nothing more than a scattering of irregular spots - a flickering constellation of little shadows and glittering highlights."
- James Gleeson 1963

The You Yangs series of 1962-64 marked Williams' breakthrough to the characteristic, spatially ambiguous works regarded by many as the most significant of his career. In works of classical elegance and understatement, he realised his aim of using the landscape as a vehicle for formal invention.

From his first visit to this range of granite hills rising from the volcanic plain west of Melbourne, he had been fascinated by the scale of the landscape.

'You Yangs landscape' 1963 is from a brilliant phase of Williams' career, when, spreading his points of focus across the entire landscape, he tilted it so steeply as to remove the sky and create a vertical reading of it. It is a work exemplifying his delight in rigorous geometry and the sheer beauty and capacity of the brushstroke to convey scattered trees and fence-lines. In the following year in which 'Trees on hillside II' was created, Williams' spots become patches and he introduces a high horizon line, heralding the beginning of his Upwey paintings.

This work was a finalist in the 1964 Wynne Prize and was acquired by the Gallery in 1965.

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000




Media category


Materials used

oil, tempera on hardboard


91.4 x 121.9 cm

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r., "Fred Williams 64".


Purchased 1965

Accession number


Wynne Prize

- 1964

Artist information

Fred Williams

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 16 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 117 (colour illus.).

Edmund Capon AM, OBE, 10 Masterpieces of Australian Painting, Sydney, 1993, colour illus..

Manning Clark, A Short History Of Australia, South Yarra, 1995, colour illus..

Richard Fullagar, Nature Australia, 'Being human. The start of art?', pg. 74-75, Sydney, Summer 2002-2003, 1 (colour illus.), 75 (colour illus.). Article about the evolution of modern human behaviour through evidence found on an engraved piece of ochre at Blombos Cave in South Africa

Sasha Grishin, Australian painters of the twentieth century, 'Fred Williams', pg. 184-195, Sydney, 2000, 184 (colour illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 163 (colour illus.).

Hendrik Kolenberg, Look, 'Celebrating Fred Williams', pg. 24-25, Sydney, Nov 2004, 24.

Walter Kommer (Editor), The Australian, Sydney, 23 Jan 1965.

Barry Pearce, Art treasures: candidate citites for the 2000 Olympic Games: Beijing, Berlin, Brasilia, Istanbul, Manchester, Sydney, 'Trees on hillside II', pg. 174, Lausanne, 1993, 174, 175 (colour illus.). 8 Sydney

Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Landscape and gesture', pg. 239-240, Sydney, 2000, 253 (colour illus.), 302.

Keith Sinclair (Editor), Age, Melbourne, 23 Jan 1965.

William Splatt and Barbara Burton, 100 masterpieces of Australian painting, Adelaide, 1973, 204, 205 (colour illus.). plate no. 99

The Creative School Supply Company, Landscapes: 1788-21st Century Australian, Box Hill, 2004?, (colour illus.). card no. 8

Unknown (Editor), Sunday telegraph, Sydney, 24 Jan 1965.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 23 Jan 1965.

Editor Unknown (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, Sydney, Apr 1966, (illus.).