More from The Tate Collection – Fred Williams

When I visited The Tate Modern last week there were a number of artists that I didn’t know, mainly abstract expressionists, so I decided that over the next few weeks I would post here and there about them so I could share their works.

To start with I will be introducing you to Fred williams;

Australian painter. He studied at the National Gallery Art School in Melbourne, attending private classes at the George Bell Art School (1943–7). His earliest paintings and drawings were nearly all studio-based compositions, including portraits, nudes and figure compositions, often reflecting an early and lasting enthusiasm for Daumier.

From 1952 to 1957 Williams studied part-time at the Chelsea School of Art and the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. He painted, drew and etched the street-life of London and was particularly attracted to music halls. In London, Williams became very familiar with modern and contemporary art through frequent visits to museums and also through handling the works that passed through the picture framing shop where he worked. When Williams returned to Australia in 1957 landscape became his main subject.

In the period from 1957 to 1962 Williams concentrated on the Australian bush and the dense eucalyptus forest of the coastal plains and hills. His view of these landscapes was first influenced by the work of French artists, most notably Paul Cézanne but also Georges Braque and Henri Matisse, applying their sense of the simplification of form.

Williams largely shed his Parisian influence in series of works on the forest theme, such as Sherbrooke pursuing a dense and monumental image of the bush through a variety of media. In 1962 he began to visit the You Yangs, a group of rocky hills near Melbourne, producing the You Yangs series which established his reputation in Australia. In these paintings Williams applied his own form of pointillism, reducing the landscape to abstract geometric motifs. This was the first of a number of landscape series painted in the 1960s. He produced gouache sketches working directly from nature, then worked these up in oil in the studio through series of oil studies, frequently also producing etchings.

In the 1970s Williams both painted further afield and enlarged his range of subject-matter, becoming particularly interested in marine subjects. His working method and palette also changed: he often made his first sketch in oil rather than gouache and painted in a greater variety of brighter colours. He chose to paint dramatic landscapes instead of the bleak landscapes of the bush.

In the last eight years of his career, Williams produced more landscape series with strong themes, his last being the Pilbara series, which remained intact as a series as it was acquired by Con-Zinc Rio Tinto Australia, the Melbourne mining company that had invited him to explore the north-west region of Australia.


Author: James Presley

I am an artist and I love it. What do I have to do to live from what I love? I'm not dying or cutting me bloody ear off, that's for sure.

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