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Fred Williams



Fred Williams was the most important landscape artist to emerge in Australia following the Second World War. His unique vision, which germinated in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s in radically abstracted prints, and matured to large sweeping oils, completely revolutionised the tradition of Australian landscape painting established in the early nineteenth century.

William’s mature style is typified by a vocabulary of spots, dots and dashes, a visual shorthand in which individual shrubs and trees lose their particularity and become simple, spontaneous shapes. His images are among the most recognisable of any Australian artist.

From 1952-1956 prior to his landscape subjects, William’s used print making, the medium from which his genius would emerge, as a means of capturing the life and lives within London, particularly the musical halls. At the British Museum, Williams studied Goya’s use of aquatint and other tonal techniques; The Haircut 1955 shows this early propensity for experimentation. On his return to Melbourne in 1957 the National gallery of Victoria were among the first to acquire these seminal works. Back in Australia William’s raison d’etre was the development of a new pictorial solution to the ubiquitous gum tree. Successive generations of artists had continued to see and paint the Australian landscape through a European vision. Inspired by the post-impressionists and particularly Cezanne, Williams devised to upturn this tradition. Echoing the European masters he separated the component parts of the landscape, tilted the picture plane, reduced detail and tone and worked at representing space whilst emphasizing the physical properties of his medium. Works such as Sapling 1962 and Upwey Landscape 1965-1966 show the progressive abstraction of his subjects. Williams considered print making a major medium and of equal importance to painting. It was with these works that he established his reputation as a major artist during the 1960’s. His success was underscored by the professional recognition he received during this period; four major prizes including the 1966 Wynne Prize, the 1968 publication of the first ever catalogue raisonne of an Australian artist’s prints and in 1970 a major exhibition of his work alongside that other Great of Australian landscape painting, Arthur Streeton.

Fred Williams is represented in The National Gallery of Australia, all state galleries, many regional galleries as well as many other public collections throughout Australia and overseas, including the Tate Gallery London. He was the recipient of many coveted awards including the 1966 and 1976 Wynne Prizes and his work has been the subject of numerous monographs and exhibitions including his 1987 retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria.


Fred Williams art

signed lower left

Artwork Title:
Landscape, c1968
55.5 x 36cm

signed lower left

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