Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Winjana Gorge, Kimberleys, I

Artist:
Fred Williams (Australian, 1927–1982)
Date:
1981
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
59 7/8 x 72 in. (152.1 x 182.9 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Gift of Lyn Watson Williams, 1992
Accession Number:
1992.312.4
Rights and Reproduction:
© Estate of Fred Williams
Not on view
The Australian-born artist Fred Williams received his first artistic training at the National Gallery Art School in Melbourne, where he learned the traditional studio methods of drawing from the human figure. He traveled to England for several years of further study in London, where he also visited various collections of modern and contemporary art in the city's museums and galleries. Williams returned to Australia in 1957 and adopted the landscape of his native country as the central subject of his art. He was initially influenced by the landscape painting of the French modernists Cézanne and Matisse, but eventually he developed his own style by simplifying his subject into abstract forms.

Working outdoors, Williams painted scenes inspired by various regions and views of the Australian continent, including the dense forests of the bush, desert areas, coastal plains and hills, and the seashore. His large-scale works of the 1970s and '80s were influenced by the "color-field" style of painting that emerged from Abstract Expressionism. Like the major practitioners of this style, who included Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, Williams tended to work in large formats, with broad masses of color and subtle differentiations of texture.

This landscape, Winjana Gorge, Kimberley, I is Williams' depiction of a uniquely Australian natural motif. The Kimberley is the most northwestern region of Australia, a rugged and sparsely wooded plateau, and Winjana Gorge, a dramatic rise of limestone cliffs, was carved out over prehistoric time by the passage of the Lennard River. As he did for other depictions of the Australian landscape, Williams traveled to the Kimberley and surveyed the land from an airplane, making sketches and taking photographs. Returning to the studio, he developed his aerial observations of the Winjana Gorge into this finished painting. The arid surfaces of the cliffs, spotted with clusters of vegetation, the whitish streak of the riverbed, and the yellowish earth surrounding the gorge are presented to us in a bird's-eye view, like a vibrant and painterly map.
Inscription: Signed (upper right): Fred Williams
the artist, Melbourne, Australia (1981–d. 1982); his widow, Lyn Watson Williams, Melbourne, Australia (1982–92; her gift to MMA)

Canberra. Australian National Gallery. "Fred Williams: The Pilbara Series and the Last Six Paintings," April 3–June 1, 1985, not in catalogue.

Beijing. China Art Gallery. "Fred Williams: The Pilbara Series and the Last Six Paintings," August 1985, not in catalogue.

Shanghai. location unknown. "Fred Williams: The Pilbara Series and the Last Six Paintings," August–September 1985, not in catalogue.

Seoul. location unknown. "Fred Williams: The Pilbara Series and the Last Six Paintings," September 1985, not in catalogue.

Tokyo. Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. "Fred Williams: The Pilbara Series and the Last Six Paintings," October 4–November 6, 1985, not in catalogue.

Canberra. National Gallery of Australia. "Fred Williams: A Retrospective," November 7, 1987–January 31, 1988, no. 190 (as "Gorge," lent by a private collection).

Melbourne. National Gallery of Victoria. "Fred Williams: A Retrospective," February–April 1988, no. 190.

Hobart. Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. "Fred Williams: A Retrospective," April–May 1988, no. 190.

Perth. Art Gallery of Western Australia. "Fred Williams: A Retrospective," June–July 1988, no. 190.

Adelaide. National Art Gallery of South Australia. "Fred Williams: A Retrospective," August–October 1988, no. 190.

Brisbane. Queensland Art Gallery. "Fred Williams: A Retrospective," November 1988–January 1989, no. 190.

Sydney. Art Gallery of New South Wales. "Fred Williams: A Retrospective," February–April 1989, no. 190.

Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin. "Fred Williams: A Retrospective," April–June 1989, no. 190.

James Mollison. A Singular Vision: The Art of Fred Williams. Canberra, 1989, p. 237 n. 12, calls it "Gorge" and locates it in a private collection.



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