Fred WILLIAMS, Silver and grey Enlarge 1 /1


Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1927 – Hawthorn, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1982

  • England 1951-56

Silver and grey [Silver and grey landscape] 1969-70 Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Primary Insc: Signed l.c., brown oil paint "Fred Williams" not dated
Dimensions: 152.5 h x 183.5 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1976
Accession No: NGA 76.95
Image rights: © Estate of Fred Williams

Fred Williams transformed the way we see the Australian landscape in his art. While many of his best-known paintings of the 1960s appear to reference the outback, they were informed by locations close to his home base in Victoria. At the same time, while he adopted distinctive characteristics of the local environment in his works, part of the revolutionary aspect of his approach to place was his profound awareness of the inter-connectedness of regional landscapes with the wider terrain.

A vital aspect of his works of the late 1960s was the way that his minimal approach was at one with the idea of the vastness of the continent, as well as with a prevailing interest in Minimalism of the time. The paintings of his Silver and grey series are among his most impressive from this period, revealing his mature vision. Silver and grey highlights the exquisite balance that Williams developed between spaciousness and expressive gesture; between abstraction and a recognisable evocation of the landscape.

Rather than making reference to a particular place, Silver and grey was painted in the studio from memory and imagination, fusing elements of Williams’s earlier You Yangs and Lysterfield series. The space is animated by textured calligraphy that in part suggests the charred ground still recovering from fires of the previous year. However, in contrast to the earlier black bushfire paintings, this work with its creamy-white ground shimmers with light. Silver and grey epitomises Williams’s capacity to distil the essence of landscape with a minimal palette and deft painterly touch.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014