FARM HOUSES AT PENNANT HILLS, 1932

Important Australian Works of Art from the Estate of the late James O. Fairfax AC
Sydney
30 August 2017
27

LLOYD REES

(1895 – 1988)
FARM HOUSES AT PENNANT HILLS, 1932

pencil on paper

15.0 x 22.0 cm

signed and dated lower left: L. REES 1932

Estimate: 
$20,000 – 30,000
Provenance

Sir Lionel Lindsay, Sydney
The Estate of the late James O. Fairfax AC, New South Wales

Exhibited

Society of Artists Annual Exhibition, The Education Department’s Art Gallery, Sydney, 2 – 30 September 1932, cat. 96
Exhibition of Pencil Drawings by Lloyd Rees, The Fine Art Society’s Gallery, Melbourne, 22 – 31 March 1933, cat. 7 (as ‘Farmhouse at Pennant Hills’)
Lloyd Rees Loan Exhibition, National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1 – 30 August 1942, cat. 60 (label attached verso)

Catalogue text

In the life of Lloyd Rees, the decade between 1926 and 1936 remains bookended by tragedy on one hand and a profound development in the artist’s practice on the other. The late 1920s had been a very difficult time for Rees personally. The death of his first wife, Dulcie, was followed by a period of deep depression. However, in 1930 the artist again found love and it was on a bus trip to visit his fiancé Marjory, who became his wife of 57 years, that a major development in his working method occurred. As Rees explained in his 1985 autobiography, Peaks and Valleys:

‘It was at Pennant Hills that a new movement in my work began. It was a rolling open landscape then and could be reached by bus from Parramatta and it was there that I tried to seriously resume painting. Physical tiredness was still affecting me and one day I tired early and was faced with a long wait for a Parramatta bus. I took a book of drawing paper from my satchel, unused because of an absurd hangover from my student days that pencil was a soft medium which must only be used on softer papers. The paper in this book was ivory smooth – the type recommended for commercial pen drawing, ensuring very black, very clean lines. Almost thoughtlessly, I began working, content in my tired state to merely outline the contour of hills and fences and trees of several varieties, with houses and sheds nestling among them or standing clear’.1

This discovery marked the beginning of an inspired period in which Rees committed himself solely to drawing, a marathon which extended well into the mid 1930s. Many of the drawings from this time depict scenes around Sydney Harbour, but it is the road side studies of buildings and trees that convey the artist’s attraction and feeling for the contrast between architecture and nature. Similar views to Farm Houses at Pennant Hills, 1932, identify the location as Thompson’s Corner. This title, with its colloquial overtone, evokes a familiarity that suggests a generally known meeting point or perhaps even a bus stop.

The delicate detail in Rees’ drawings of this period is simply staggering; by any measure they are as close as any Australian artist has ever come to the achievements of the Italian masters he so much admired. Rees’ nuanced and inspired drawing is heightened by the virtuosity of his techniques. Surprisingly, Rees’ breadth of tone and line is not achieved by a range of differing lead pencils - but by using only one. His technique of sharpening the pencil against the tooth of the paper while using it horizontality to shade, meant that his shift from tone to line was seamless and in no small way helped Lloyd Rees to achieve the fluid nature of these masterful drawings.

1. Rees, L., Peaks and Valleys, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1985, p. 189

HENRY MULHOLLAND
Senior Art Specialist
Deutscher and Hackett