Sydney auction a roll call of Australian artist royalty

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 26th April, 2022

Deutscher and Hackett’s forthcoming Important Australian and International Fine Art auction is like a roll call of Australian artist royalty.

Scheduled for 7pm Wednesday May 4 at 36 Gosbell Street in Sydney’s Paddington, the sale features 11 paintings with catalogue estimates of more than $100,000 – all featuring artists familiar to investors and collectors alike – and undoubtedly a reflection of the strength of the Australian art market during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The highest estimate of $400,000-$600,000 is for John Brack’s (1920-1999) Knives and Forks, 1958 (lot 9), a great example of his preoccupation with acute observations of contemporary living and interest in people.

The artist’s practice of identifying local subjects such as those that appear in the painting became instantly recognisable to anyone who grew up in Australia, and particularly Melbourne, during the mid-20th century.

Now beginning to be recognised globally is New Zealand artist Rita Angus (1908-1970), one of her country’s most important painters of last century, whose work Hawke’s Bay Landscape, c1955 (lot 10) is typical of her willingness to experiment with scale, imagery and perspective and carries a $350,000-$450,000 catalogue estimate.

Born in Adelaide, Bessie Davidson’s (1879-1965) La Robe Bleue, 1911 (lot 15) has a similar estimate ($300,000-$400,000) and is  typical of the paintings she produced once moving permanently to Paris in 1910, where she often concentrated on depicting women at leisure.

Her works are now represented in the French museums Musee d’Art Moderne, Musee d’Orsay and Musee du Petit Palais as well as in several international collections.

An old favourite Sir Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) is represented in the auction with two works of similar estimate value – one is Norther View Olinda, 1933 (lot 19 - $250,000-$350,000) and the other Out of the Purple Mountain It Gets its Waters, 1928 (lot 17 - $150,000-$200,000).

The first of these was purchased the year it was painted from Melbourne’s Athenaeum Gallery by a Mrs A.E. Ramsay and has been handed down through the family, and the second has been in a Victorian private collection since 1984.

Both these paintings were completed after Streeton returned in 1920 to Australia with his wife and young son from a 10-year stint in London.   

William Robinson’s Sunshowers and Flood Gums, 1993 (lot 35) carries the same catalogue estimate as the Streeton’s Northern View Olinda and it is generally acknowledged that, as an artist who is now in his mid-80s, he has made a unique contribution to Australia’s landscape tradition by moving beyond conventional notions to encompass a fluctuating environment.

Fred Williams (1927-1982), Ben Quilty, Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999), Clarice Beckett and Yvonne Audette are the other artists whose works carry more than $100,000 estimates.

Williams also has several other paintings in the auction but Lysterfield Paddock No. 1, 1973 (lot 25) carries a catalogue figure of $200,000-$300,000, while Quilty’s Rorschach – The Butterfly Effect No. 2, 2008 (lot 41) is a credible $150,000-$250,000 reflecting his increasing auction popularity.

A significant 20th century Australian artist, Gascoigne’s Summer Stack, 1990 (lot 30) is a $160,000-$200,000 catalogue gem and is recognised as one of the most striking and widely celebrated of her works – mainly because it is constructed from thinly sliced weathered wooden Schweppes soft drink crates.

Clarice Beckett’s (1887-1935) The Solitary Bathing Box c 1932 (lot 5) is one of the many paintings that she did of scenes around Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay.

Born in 1930, Yvonne Audette is another Australian who moved overseas (in her case New York before later settling in Europe in the 1950s) to further her career.

The Jugglers, 1967 (lot 28) – painted after she returned to Australia in 1966 – shows the influence of her exploration into abstract expressionism combined with her reintroduction Australia’s shimmering, intense light.

The auction also contains works by plenty of other well-known artists such as Tom Roberts, Fred McCubbin and still life exponent Margaret Preston.

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