Australian art giants feature in big ticket auction items

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 18th September, 2015

Fred Williams was the first Australian artist to be honoured with a major exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

The year was 1977 and he already was regarded as Australia’s most important artist.

This exhibition introduced Williams to an international audience and the following year he began a series of new paintings on the Werribee Gorge – now regarded as among the most important of his career.

These works are unusually large, brilliantly conceived and painted, and containing the combined microscopic and wide-angle view of the landscape that made Williams famous as the man who changed the way Australians looked at their own topography.

Menzies latest auction, from 6.30pm Thursday September 24 at 1 Darling Street South Yarra, features Werribee Gorge II 1978 (lot 41) with a catalogue estimate of $650,000-$850,000.

An Australian larrikin, Williams contemporary John Perceval had a different approach to landscape painting.

Perceval’s heart and soul belonged in Europe and he drew on his passion for the old masters Heironymus Bsch (c1450-1516), Pieter Bruegel (c1525-1569) and Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) to create views of Williamstown – regarded as genius.

Painted in 1959, the best of these are now in museums or tightly held in private collections.

So, when a major work, previously listed ‘whereabouts unknown’ re-emerges after a lifetime in a private collection, it is an important event.

The Moored Shark Boat 1959 (lot 39) estimate $380,000-$450,000 is just such a work.

The Menzies auction features several large paintings with big estimates by the giants of Australian art.

Joining Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan Brett Whiteley and Jeffrey Smart in this sale is Del Kathryn Barton – twice an Archibald winner.

She is represented by a major work – last seen when displayed at the Melbourne Art Fair 2010 – The Love You Know (lot 43) and its catalogue estimate of $140,000-$180,000 reflects her increasing importance to the Australian art scene.

Another Archibald winner Garry Shead (whose drifting career was resurrected when he won the prize in 1993) is now a leading Sydney painter.

He is represented in this auction by several works including a classic Ern Malley painting Young Prince of Tyre 2003 (lot 37).

A major attraction is the unique grey marble work by French-American sculptor Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973) entitled Homme Assis a la Clarinette II 1971 (lot 42).

Singed by the artist and with an imposing provenance, the sculpture has a catalogue estimate of $1.2 million to $1.6 million.

Viewing: Stonington Mansion 336 Glenferrie Road, Malvern 11am-6pm Thursday September 17 to Wednesday September 23 (Sunday from 1pm). 

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