Australian art auction house Menzies celebrates 20th anniversary

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 23rd April, 2018

Art auction house Menzies is celebrating its 20th anniversary in style with a sale of carefully selected paintings that include such iconic Australian artists as Russell Drysdale and Jeffrey Smart.

It has been a successful art journey for executive chairman Rod Menzies who began his Melbourne operation as Deutscher~Menzies in Malvern before purchasing the current premises at 1 Darling Street, South Yarra a few years later.

In that time, many of Australia’s leading artworks have passed through Menzies doors and this auction, from 6.30pm Thursday April 26 in South Yarra, is no exception.

The Russell Drysdale work, Evening on Stony Plains c1940s, has never been shown in public, nor has it been offered for public sale.

This very rare 1940s painting was purchased in the 1970s by private treaty from Melbourne art dealer Joseph Brown AO OBE and has remained in the current owner’s collection ever since.

Most of Drysdale’s limited number of 1940s paintings is now in
Australia’s national and State galleries – with few in private hands.

Jeffrey Smart’s The Observer II 1983-84 mid-career work shows an official looking man in a dark suit and tie who watches people go about their daily lives.

The figure is equipped with powerful binoculars and a massive speaker, giving the impression that if he spots something amiss he will loudly broadcast his annoyance.

Featured on the catalogue cover, in 1990 a Sydney family acquired the Smart painting from its first owner. It has not been offered for sale since then and makes its first appearance at auction.

Both the Drysdale and Smart paintings carry a catalogue estimate of $800,000-$1 million.

The auction will commence with a quartet of Impressionist paintings that have remained in the family of Irish-born immigrant and theatrical entrepreneur Sir George Tallis since their acquisition almost a century ago.

Of particular note is Elioth Gruner’s serene and timeless On the Sands 1920 (lot 2), a painting that was last seen publicly at the National Gallery of Victoria’s Loan Exhibition of Australian Paintings 1925.

One of his descendants will use the sale proceeds to help establish the Mike Tallis Award in Statistics at the University of New South Wales and to fund applied research into medical problems.

Art works from ExxonMobil (previously Esso Australia) also are in the auction. These include such high calibre works as Lloyd Rees’s Illawarra Pastoral of 1957, acquired directly from the artist following the 1958 Royal Easter Show in Sydney and Inge King’s magnus opus Shearwater 1994-5, which has captivated visitors to Melbourne’s Southbank precinct ever since.

Other paintings of note include Tom Roberts Untitled (Dandenong Landscape) c1923, Gary Shead’s D.H. and Thirroulia 1996, Tim Storrier’s Reflected Fireline 1999, Brett Whiteley’s Kurrajong 1981, and Sidney Nolan’s Kelly 1964.


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