Iconic landscape painting sets tone for Australian art auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 28th April, 2023

Russell Drysdale (1912-1981) was renowned for providing an artistic commentary of Australia and its inhabitants during the 20th century – his paintings capturing both the essence of the country and the character of its people.

One, entitled Children Dancing, 1950, (lot 12) is at the forefront of Deutscher and Hackett’s forthcoming Melbourne auction from 7pm Wednesday May 3 at 105 Commercial Road, South Yarra with a catalogue estimate of $1.3-$1.6 million.  

The painting, acquired from iconic Melbourne collector Joseph Brown (whose collection is on show in the National Gallery of Victoria), has since 1983 been in a private Melbourne collection.

It follows a closely related smaller work depicting two young girls dancing barefoot with arms raised and painted the previous year.

The catalogue essay lauds Drysdale as one of Australia’s best-known artists who made a profound contribution to the visual representation of the country’s life. He remains a household name and his works are on permanent display in major galleries throughout Australia.

Many of Australia’s iconic artists, both past and present, are featured in this auction – not the least of which is Brett Whiteley (1939-1992), represented through Harbour in the Rain, 1977 (lot 5) and a painted bronze sculpture entitled Pelican I, 1983 (lot 4) among other works.

The painting encapsulates the Lavender Bay scenes for which the artist is so widely revered and considered his crowning career achievement, while a related unpainted work to the Pelican sculpture resides in the National Gallery of Victoria.

Veteran artist John Olsen, who died earlier this month aged 95, is another well-known name with works in the auction including The Bath, 1996 (lot 7) and Wattle Pollen Time, 1974 (lot 6).

Olsen was working until the day he died and his love of travel, friendship and food – and the pleasure he found in the world around him – is always reflected in his paintings.

Recognised as one of Australia’s finest 20th century artists, Fred Williams (1927-1982) was unsurpassed as a landscape painter and Ponds, Lysterfield, 1966 (lot 8) is typical of his work.

Charles Blackman (1928-2018) appears with Double Image, 1961 (lot 9), which probably was part of his seminal solo London exhibition in November that year.

Awarded the prestigious Helena Rubenstein Travelling Art Scholarship in 1960, Blackman was then able to relocate with his family to London, where they would remain for the next five years.

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) is a constant attention grabber and Sheep Weather Alert 5, 1992-93 (lot 20) is no exception.

With her training in Ikebana complementing her intuitive understanding of materials, deep attachment to the environment and later interest in modern art, Gascoigne remains one of Australia’s most revered assemblage artists.

Of this work she says “Somebody gave me a lot of lino. I couldn’t stand the inferior red and green on it, which in theory were the colours, but the black and the grey were good, so I tore it by hand. It turned out in a way like sheep shapes, especially if you saw a mass of them.”

An early farmyard painting entitled Chook Yard with Bath – Tank, c1984 (lot 21) is a typical complex William Robinson arrangement and follows his move to a farm on Brisbane’s outskirts in 1970. He has twice won both the prestigious Archibald Prize for portraiture and Wynne Prize for landscape painting to establish him as one of Australia’s leading contemporary painters.

Another leading contemporary artist Cressida Campbell is featured with Bronte Interior, 2003 (lot 23) while Ben Quilty, who is making an ever-increasing secondary market mark, has Want, Want, Want, 2006 (lot 26) among his works.

On the international front, British-born street artist Banksy work Girl With Balloon, 2004 (lot 24) is listed carrying a catalogue estimate of $450,000-$650,000.

An artist with an undeniable major influence on contemporary culture, this painting is recognised as his most iconic work.

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