Important Australian + International Fine Art
1 September 2010

Fred Williams

(1927 - 1982)

Upwey Series
oil on canvas

91.5 x 106.5 cm

signed lower left: Fred Williams

$400,000 - 600,000
Sold for $432,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 16 - 1 September 2010, Sydney

Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney (stock number RK 2105)
Edward Jackson AM and Cynthia Jackson AM, Sydney, acquired from the above in 1968

Catalogue text

For painterly richness Fred Williams has no rival in Australian art. Thick swirls of heavily laden pigment entice the eye through their colour and tactility, translating the landscape into the felt through the magic of his brush. Such is his genius that his paintings give both aesthetic pleasure and intellectual enrichment through the interweaving of verisimilitude and abstraction. In his Upwey and Lysterfield paintings and allied etchings Williams makes a virtue of the scruffiness of the Australian bush creating a new consciousness of its unique features through the individuality of his vision. Never before in all its disorder, density or openness did it look so elegant. Across fields of paint or on the stained flatness of his canvases he created painting after painting of the greatest visual subtlety in a kind of endless revelation of the varieties of the landscape and his sophisticated response to it.

During 1965 Williams was painting his great Upwey landscapes that now feature in some of Australia's leading collections - Upwey Landscape II in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Upwey Landscape III in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, and Upwey Landscape V in the Art Gallery of Ballarat being among the best. By the winter of that year he was also making painting trips to Lysterfield, a short distance from his then home at Upwey. The landscapes of Upwey and Lysterfield in the foothills of Melbourne's Dandenong Ranges provided him with a wide range of motifs, all tempting the spontaneity of his brush. Although titled 'Lysterfield V', our painting belongs to the Upwey series as seen in its motifs, style and technique - a commanding composition full of painterly confidence. This is confirmed by the artist's widow Lyn Williams.1

Lysterfield V has the rectangular format and pictorial richness of the Upwey paintings mentioned above, although there is a greater predominance of blues than browns. Perhaps this presages the resonant blues found in the grand Green Cloud and Owl 1965-66, once in the collection of the University of Texas at Austin, gift of the Mertz Art Fund. Moreover, Lysterfield V celebrates a denser bush through its lively colour and brush strokes. Breezy of atmosphere, the colour swirls of the leafy trees are repeated in the scudding clouds in a concerto of earth hues and rich blues. In this and other works of the time Williams effectively blends the spontaneity and freshness of painting in the open air with the later considered thought and refinement of the studio. An important link between the two series through its affinity with Lysterfield V is provided by another major painting of the time, Lysterfield Landscape I 1965-66, in the collection of Mr Rupert Murdoch. As Patrick McCaughey perceptively noted,'Lysterfield Landscape I was made and painted with the full orchestration found in the Upwey derivatives...'2

1. Emailed information from Mrs Williams, 16 July 2010
2. McCaughey, P., Fred Williams, Bay Books Pty Ltd, Sydney 1980, p. 184