Australian commercial art pioneers among strong auction collection

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 8th November, 2023

Ian Fairweather (1891-1974) paintings – part of the art collection belonging to early Australian art scene pioneers Joe and Rose Skinner – will be auctioned by Deutscher and Hackett from 7pm Wednesday November 22 in their Sydney premises at 36 Gosbell Street, Paddington.

Except for an oil and pencil on cardboard entitled Head c1934 (lot 10), the works (lots 5-12) are all gouache on paper mainly featuring scenes from Soochow and Foochow, cities based in mainland China, with the latter the capital of Fujian Province. Each of the paintings carries individual catalogue estimates as high as $120,000.

Based in Perth, when it opened in 1958 Skinner Galleries was the third professionally run commercial gallery to be established in Australia, attracting many of the country‘s leading artists.

Joe was an English migrant who in 1911 migrated to Perth only to be wounded at Gallipoli during World War I. He was literally saved by two pennies in his trouser pocket.

On returning to the Western Australian capital, he became a successful developer responsible during the 1930s and 1940s for some of the more elegant deco-style hotels and apartments around the city.

During this period, Joe met Rose Dvoretsky, the daughter of Polish emigrants who in turn became successful Perth landholders, and they married in 1946.

By the time they opened their gallery, the couple already had amassed a considerable collection of well-known artists such as Sali Herman, Russell Drysdale and Guy Grey-Smith – and the Ian Fairweather paintings, left over from a 1940s exhibition, were a December 1953 purchase from Redfern’s London Galleries.

The Deutscher and Hackett auction offers several significant paintings including John Brack’s (1920-1999) Wig Shop Window, 1970 (lot 14), acquired in the 1970s by fellow painter Leonard French directly from the artist.

With a $600,000-$800,000 catalogue estimate, the painting reflects Brack’s time as head of Melbourne’s National Gallery School, now the site of the State Library Victoria, when he walked prodigiously around the city observing the commercial shopfront displays of various businesses.

The colour pink, largely to denote modern femininity, was all the rage in those days and this is shown in many of his works at the time.

The next lot (15), entitled Three Figures, 1971, again reveals Brack’s use of pink to highlight the action figures.

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) is another artist of note in the auction with her work The Fall, 1981 (lot 18) made from soft drink crate timbers reflecting an era when the local tip was a treasure trove for those with a keen eye.

Cressida Campbell features with Spotted Gums, 1999 (lot 16) and Interior with Red Ginger, 1998 (lot 17), with respective $140,000-$180,000 and $160,000-$220,000 catalogue estimates, while William Robinson’s Birkdale Farm Construction with Australorps, 1982-83 (lot 22) is typical of the works he has produced since moving his family to Brisbane’s rural outskirts early in his career.

Other leading Australian artists whose works appear in this auction are Fred Williams (1927-1982) Summer Landscape, Lysterfield, 1973 (lot 13), Albert Tucker (1914-1999) Explorer, Evening, 1965 (lot 20) and Tony Tuckson (1921-1973) – whose work entitled Two Faint Lines on Brown (TP85), 1970-73 (lot 19) is acknowledged as a transcendent marker of his vast interests in abstract, Aboriginal, Oceanic and Melanesian art.  

Several studio works by now 93-year-old Australian artist Yvonne Audette from her time in New York, Milan and then Melbourne during the 1950s-1970s (lots 28-33) also are featured.

Widely recognised as occupying a unique place in Australian art history, Audette arrived in 1952 in New York when the New York School was being acknowledged as the preeminent global avant-garde, particularly for abstract expressionism.

These are among her best and of high museum quality, retained until now for personal reasons.

The oil on plywood diptych entitled Different Directions, 1964 (lot 31) is a great example of the works on offer.





105 Commercial Road, South Yarra


Wednesday November 8 to Sunday November 12



36 Gosbell Street, Paddington


Thursday November 16 to Tuesday November 21


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