Rare Aussie Rules portrait to go under hammer

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 13th August, 2014

A rare player portrait from the early days of Australian Rules football will go under the hammer from 6.30pm Monday August 18 when Bonhams holds its latest Australian art auction at Como House in Williams Road, South Yarra.

Geoff Moriarty played for Fitzroy from the Victorian Football League’s inaugural season in 1897 until 1907 before becoming the club’s first official coach in 1911.

His son, legendary Fitzroy full-forward Jack Moriarty, also played for 10 years (from 1924-1933), topping the club’s goal kicking list every year except 1930.

At the end of his career, Jack Moriarty had booted 672 goals in 170 games (an average of almost four goals per game) and in 2004 was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Bonhams chairman Mark Fraser said it was rare to find a painting of a named football player from the game’s origins – particularly one by such a well-known artist.

“Painted in 1901, the portrait has been in the Moriarty family for more than four generations, so this sale is a unique opportunity for someone to snap up an important piece of football history,” he said.

The artist, Frederick Woodhouse Jr, was renowned for his paintings of thoroughbred racehorses, including several Melbourne Cup winners.

The auction contains several other important paintings including the massive work A Large House with Fence 1998 by Howard Arkley – a pigeon pair to the one hanging in the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Painted a year before his death, Arkley’s suburban houses were inspired by, and often directly referenced, drawings that real estate agents produced to advertise properties in newspapers in the days before photographs were used.

Another significant work is Charles Blackman’s Suite of Paintings VI, 1959-60 – part of a series of six paintings, two of which are hanging in the Queensland Art Gallery and Art Gallery of NSW, that secured the artist the prestigious Helena Rubenstein travelling art scholarship in 1960.  

This painting was initially exhibited at Brisbane’s Johnstone Gallery, before being purchased by Bryan Robertson, then director of London’s Whitechapel Gallery, who included the work in the June 1961 London exhibition Recent Australian Paintings, alongside the works of Brett Whiteley and Lawrence Daws. 

The work was later included in the definitive National Gallery of Victoria exhibition Charles Blackman – Schoolgirls and Angels of 1993.

Arthur Boyd’s Card Players c1955-57 is another painting that should have collectors clamouring.  

A painted and glazed ceramic, it depicts the same subject as his Shearers Playing for a Bride that is hanging in the NGV.


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