Important Fine Art + Indigenous Art
18 April 2018


(1865 – 1915)

oil on canvas on plywood

38.0 x 44.0 cm

signed lower left: E. Phillips Fox

$60,000 – 80,000

Private collection
Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne
Sigmund Horowitz, Perth
Thence by descent
Private collection, Perth
Bonhams, Sydney, 21 November 2011, lot 3
Private collection, Sydney


Australian Art: Colonial to Modern, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 9 – 25 April 1986, cat. 63 (illus. in exhibition catalogue as ‘Harbour Scene, South of France’)


Zubans, R., E. Phillips Fox: His Life and Art, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1995, cat. 426, p. 229 (as ‘Harbour Scene, South of France’)

Catalogue text

The sea and the beach had a special appeal for Emanuel Phillips Fox, being at the centre of some of his finest paintings including Bathing Hour, c.1909 (Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane) and The Ferry, c.1910 – 11 (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney). In others, Rocks and Sea, c.1911 (University of Melbourne Art Collection, Melbourne) and Green Wave, Manly, c.1914 (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne), for example, they are the very subject itself, celebrations of freedom in ever-changing form and colour. Earlier, at the fashionable French beach resorts of Trouville and Royan, Fox and his wife Ethel Carrick delighted in capturing elegant moments of La Belle Époque, and later the brilliant sunlight of Tangiers, Cadiz, Melbourne and Sydney. Fox’s letters to Hans Heysen in Australia often mention his travels and pursuit of sunlight: ‘…I hope to go South for October & look forward to getting some good work, in the neighbourhood of Arles…’.1 During 1912 – 13, Fox and Carrick made several visits to southern France. Attracted by the various Mediterranean coastlines, they painted at Le Brusc, Sanary and Cassis. Years later, Ethel recalled the early part of 1913 when they stayed ‘some time in the South of France where Fox painted several brilliant seascapes’.2 This brilliance was not confined to the big paintings, as confirmed by a reviewer of Fox’s 1913 Melbourne exhibition of many of these works: ‘Leaving the larger works to their own attractions, many of the smaller landscapes claim attention, notably “The Blue Shutters,” a remarkable essay in pure sunlight as brilliant as anything an Australian midsummer sun could accomplish’.3 (The Blue Shutters, believed to be a Cassis subject, was sold by Deutscher and Hackett in November 2016, lot 43). The exhibition, held at the Athenaeum Hall in June, featured many major works shown previously at the London Royal Academy and Paris Salons. They now enliven the walls of our leading state and national galleries. The landscapes ranged through views of Cordova, Sanary, Le Brusc, and possibly our harbour-side painting – unidentified among the seventy works catalogued. Nevertheless, Cassis, South of France, c.1912 – 13 likewise qualifies for the praise given by another critic of the 1913 exhibition: ‘The little landscapes are strong in their effects of the sun’s heat and glitter, with a sense of the all-enveloping atmosphere, which harmonises all things in nature … spontaneous records of effects seen and rapidly noted’.4

The Mediterranean fishing port of Cassis near Marseilles is overlooked by an ancient chateau, seen on the right horizon of Fox’s painting. While boats fill the harbour foreground, Fox surrounds the busy quayside with brightly coloured buildings, outdoor cafes, restaurants and promenading figures. All are enveloped in that balmy, captivating atmosphere so characteristic of the Mediterranean. From Paul Signac in the spring-summer of 1889 to Rupert Bunny in March of 1931, Cassis attracted many artists. They all celebrated its glorious light, to which Fox added a serenity and optimism that characterises the best of his art.

1. Fox, E.P., letter to Hans Heysen, 27 September 1912, quoted in Zubans, R., E. Phillips Fox: His Life and Art, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1995, p. 183
2. Ethel Carrick manuscript notes for 1949 Fox retrospective exhibition, Fox file, Art Gallery of New South Wales, quoted in Eagle, M., The Oil Paintings of E. Phillips Fox in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1997, pp. 77, 80, footnote 86
3. ‘Mr. Phillips Fox’s Exhibition’, Argus, Melbourne, 17 June 1931, p. 9
4. ‘Art Exhibitions. Mr. E. Phillips Fox’s Pictures’, Age, Melbourne, 17 June 1913, p. 8