A tinge of Italy in Australian art auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 2nd December, 2021

Australian artist the late Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013) loved Italy, emigrating there in 1963 and eight years later acquiring the rustic farmhouse ‘Posticcia Nuova’ in central Tuscany.

It was the site for many of his paintings including The Arezzo Turn-off II, 1973 – which features prominently as lot 5 in Melbourne-based Deutscher and Hackett’s art auction from 7pm Wednesday December 8 at 105 Commercial Road, South Yarra.

The sale contains important modern works from a Melbourne private collection and traditional paintings from an Adelaide collection – as well as a selection of other artists.

Carrying a catalogue estimate of $800,000-$1.2 million, Smart’s painting is a true reflection of his widely acclaimed legacy – that showing symbols of modernity, urban pressure and activity in the form of freeways, road signs and trucks which he manages to imbue with a great sense of stillness, virtually contradicting the chaotic world from which they derive.  

In the same Melbourne collection is John Perceval’s (1923-2000) Old Ships at Williamstown, 1959 (lot 2) with a $400,000-$600,000 estimate.

Perceval was part of coterie of artists known as the Angry Penguins that art patrons John and Sunday Reed supported at their northern suburbs farm Heide – now the site of a museum and art gallery of the same name.

The Angry Penguins included such iconic Australian modern artists as Sidney Nolan, Joy Hester, Albert Tucker and Arthur Boyd and together they set a highly influential course through Australian post-war modernism.

Arthur Boyd (1920-1999) also features in the Melbourne collection with two paintings including Pulpit Rock with Flame Trees and Cockatoos, c1982 (lot 3), along with Columbian sculptor Fernando Botero’s Reclining Woman (lot 7), Henry Moore’s (1898-1986) Maquette for Reclining Figure: Circle, 1983 (lot 6) and Philippe Hiquily’s (1925-2013) La Marathonienne, 1981 (lot 8).

The Adelaide collection is a testament to traditional paintings with Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) featuring prominently through Sirius Cove, Sydney, c 1893-95 (lot 13) and Sunlight After Rain, 1938 (lot 15).

Regarded as the father of Australian landscape painting, Tom Robert’s (1856-1931) Kirribilli Point, Sydney, c1895 (lot 14) was painted during his time at Curlew Camp at Little Sirius Cove with other artists including Streeton.

There are two paintings by Walter Withers (1854-1914)  in the auction including Early Morning, Eltham, 1899 (lot 10).

Sole World War I Australian war artist in Palestine, George Washington Lambert’s (1873-1930) graphic paintings of Australian soldiers in that particular conflict are represented in lot 16 – Artist and his Batman, Light Horse Cavalry, Jerusalem Heights, 1920 -  along with an oil on wood panel of 19th century Australian explorer Edward John Eyre and his Aboriginal companion Wylie, entitled Eyre and Wylie, 1908 (lot 17).

Lambert also became great friends with fellow art student at the Sydney Art School, Althea (Thea) Proctor, using her as a model on several occasions including lot 18, Portrait of Thea Proctor, 1905, painted while they both lived in London.

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