Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 August 2018


(1893 – 1964)

oil on canvas

67.0 x 104.0 cm

signed with initials lower right: G.M.

$40,000 – 60,000
Sold for $39,040 (inc. BP) in Auction 55 - 29 August 2018, Sydney

Darlinghurst Galleries, Sydney (label attached verso)
Southern Cross Galleries, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne


Possibly: Godfrey Miller Memorial Exhibition, Darlinghurst Galleries, Sydney, 16 February – 27 March 1965
Possibly: Southern Cross Galleries, Melbourne, July 1972
Blue Chip XVI: The Collectors’ Exhibition, Niagara Galleries, Melbourne, 4 – 29 March 2014, cat.14 (illus.)


Henshaw, J., Godfrey Miller, Darlinghurst Galleries, Sydney, 1965, pl. 47 (illus. inverted)

Catalogue text

When Godfrey Miller died in 1964 in his run-down cottage in the inner-Sydney suburb of Paddington, his neighbours considered him a lonely recluse. They were subsequently amazed when notable members of the artworld started descending on the site, securing it from outsiders. For what they suspected, and ultimately found to be true, was that the shabby exterior hid a treasure trove within of paintings, drawings and sculptures by one of Australia’s truly individualistic abstract artists. Miller hated to part with his artworks and indeed, only held his first solo exhibition in 1957 when he was in his mid-sixties in spite of having first trained as an artist in New Zealand before World War One. Landscape, Woronora, 1953 – 55, comes from that hidden hoard and like its companions, was painted over a number of years as the artist ‘set himself to capture a feeling for the essence of things in the flux of changing experiences; to find a pictorial technique capable of celebrating both permanence and change at the same time’.1

Miller was a meticulous artist who had a rich understanding of non-Western spiritual philosophies. In part, this study was triggered by his experience at Gallipoli where he was seriously wounded. Like many veterans, Miller lost faith in Western values for having caused and supported such a human disaster, and thus turned to Eastern cultures for enlightenment and understanding as he resurrected his shattered body. He also returned to his art studies, first in Melbourne at the National Gallery School, then London in the 1930s at the Slade. It was during this English episode that Miller became a determined modernist, ‘call(ing) upon the shapes of planar and solid geometry for imagery, and (assigning) symbolic meaning there’.2 Following a three month Rudolph Steiner course on colour at the Anthroposophical Centre in Switzerland, Miller relocated to Sydney in 1939 and began teaching part-time at East Sydney Technical College in 1948, where his students were soon in awe of the quiet persistence, dignity and knowledge of their teacher.

The Woronora River is located on the southern outskirts of Sydney and it is probable this painting started as a sketch done whilst Miller was staying with his friend, the artist Carl Plate, who had a cottage there.3 Starting with the drawing of the boat and trees running to the water’s edge, Miller gradually pared the motif back to its essential rhythms, lines and curves, where ‘natural appearances are never entirely eradicated, being held as it were in flight between intricate, interpenetrating grids … allegories of a universe in which form and colour are continuously created and destroyed by energy and light’.4 Miller himself described his finished paintings as depicting a reality ‘made of cadences, rhythms, materials – all that science ignores’.5

Meditative, layered and richly coloured, Landscape, Woronora, is a fine example of Godfrey Miller’s mature technique, one honed over many decades of study and quiet application. Related paintings from this fertile decade include Blue Unity, 1954 – 55 (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra); Nude and the Moon, 1954 – 59 (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney); and Trees in Quarry, 1952 – 56 (formerly Mertz Collection, University of Texas).

1. Smith, B., Australian Painting 1788 – 1970, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1971, pp. 302 – 303
2. Wookey, A., ‘Godfrey Miller and Mathematics’, in Edwards, D., Godfrey Miller, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1996, p. 111
3. See Stewart, M., Margaret Olley: far from a still life, Vintage, Sydney, 2005, p. 163
4. Smith, B., op. cit., p. 303
5. Godfrey Miller aphorism quoted in Henshaw, J., ‘Godfrey Miller’, Godfrey Miller, Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne, September 2004, non-paginated