Trees on hillside II
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 brief and 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
oil, tempera on hardboard
91.4 x 121.9 cm
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r., "Fred Williams 64".
© Estate of Fred Williams
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Archibald, Wynne and Sulman (1964), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Jan 1965–21 Feb 1965
Art Treasures of Olympic Cities, Lausanne Olympic Museum, 22 Jun 1993–03 Oct 1993
Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000
Australian modern masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales:
Referenced in 16 publications
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.
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.). cat.no. 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.
Unknown (Editor), Sunday telegraph, Sydney, 24 Jan 1965.
The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 23 Jan 1965.
The Australian, Sydney, 23 Jan 1965.
A Short History Of Australia, South Yarra, 1995, colour illus..
Age, Melbourne, 23 Jan 1965.
Edmund Capon, 10 Masterpieces of Australian Painting, Sydney, 1993, colour illus..
William Splatt and Barbara Burton, 100 masterpieces of Australian painting, Adelaide, 1973, 204, 205 (colour illus.). plate no. 99
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 117 (colour illus.).
Unknown, Landscapes: 1788-21st Century Australian, Box Hill, 2004?, (colour illus.). card no. 8
Editor Unknown (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, Sydney, Apr 1966, (illus.).