"Auction first" for Menzies Australian art sale

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 15th March, 2022

Another “auction first” – in the form of John Brack’s (1920-1999) The Wedding Breakfast 1960 (lot 30) – will be the focus of attention at Menzies March 31, 2022 Important Australian & International Art sale in Sydney, beginning at 6.30pm at 12 Todman Avenue, Kensington.

The central painting of Brack’s Wedding series, it was created for the 1960 Helena Rubenstein Travelling Art Scholarship Exhibition and has featured in every major survey exhibition of his work since then.

In generous impasto, the painting captures a joyful moment of matrimony – the cutting of the wedding cake.

Catalogue essay writer Sasha Grishin describes the work as exceptionally ambitious because it attempts to combine the sensuousness and immediacy of texture painting with the discipline of line and figurative form.

The painting, which carries a catalogue estimate of $900,000-$1.2 million, is a critical part of Brack’s oeuvre because it provides a vital link between the artist’s astute 1950s social commentary and his satirical Ballroom Dancers series of the following decade.   

Menzies March auction coincides with Jeffrey Smart’s (1921-2013) celebrated National Gallery of Australia survey exhibition and the late artist has four works in the sale.

The major piece is Pylon 1 2006 (lot 29) – and with a $500,000-$700,000 catalogue estimate is an excellent later work that reveals the unrivalled finesse of his approach to composition, perspective, colour and surface.

A strong selection of late 19th and early 20th century art is another auction highlight with such major works by artists like John Glover, Haughton Forrest, Arthur Streeton, Elioth Gruner, Agnes Goodsir and Horace Trenerry very much to the fore.

Particular attention should be paid to Emanuel Phillips Fox (1865-1915) intimate subject painting En Déshabillé c1911 (lot 33) which, painted in the artist’s Montparnasse home, epitomises the carefree elegance of pre-World War I Paris – and is another Menzies painting making its auction debut after spending 45 years away from public gaze.

It is believed the subject is Fox’s most celebrated model of the period, Edith Anderson, who also was the wife of his close friend Penleigh Boyd.

Contemporary works will be another auction favourite, particularly four highly covetable Ben Quilty works.

These are Self Portrait as a Budgie 2004 (lot 17), Grey Skull 2006 (lot 18), Australian Landscape No. 6 2005 (lot 26) and Untitled No. 1 (Paris) 2014 (lot 39) – and all estimates reflect his increasing auction popularity.

Cressida Campbell’s The Verandah 1987 (lot 22), that depicts Russell Drysdale’s daughter Lynne’s home, is another painting with strong appeal and, rendered in distinctive vertical format, is regarded as her most significant 1980s image.

Other works worth considering are international prints, particularly David Hockney’s Lithograph of Water Made of Thick and Thin Lines and Two Light Blue Washes 1978-80 (lot 21).

From the artist’s iconic swimming pool series, this important image was produced as a small edition of 40 and carries an estimate $140,000-$180,000.


Melbourne viewing

1 Darling Street, South Yarra


Thursday March 17 to Sunday March 20


Sydney viewing

12 Todman Avenue, Kingston


Thursday March 24 to Wednesday March 30



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