Fred WILLIAMS, Forest Enlarge 1 /1


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

  • England 1951-56

Forest [(aslo known as 'Saplings')] 1960-61 Title Notes: 'Saplings' title known as when acquired. Title 'Forrest' noted by Debroah Hart and confirmed by Lyn Williams. Image in Patrick McCaughey 'Fred Williams' as titled 'Forrest'.
Place made: Exhibition Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on composition board

Primary Insc: signed lower left, in brown oil " Fred Williams "
Secondary Insc: on verso signed: 'Fred Williams'
Dimensions: 89.5 h x 77.0 w cm framed 1040 h x 906 w x 54 d mm
Acknowledgement: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2006
Accession No: NGA 2006.385
Image rights: © Estate of Fred Williams
  • Exhibited ‘Fred Williams’, Rudy Komon Art Gallery, Sydney, cat. 10b/12, 29 August 1962
  • Purchased National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, April 2006

Fred Williams, one of Australia’s greatest landscape painters, created a highly original way of seeing the Australian countryside. Forest is a vibrant, sensuous painting presenting a view of a sapling forest from close quarters. The tall trees are cut off above and below, so that they float in the picture plane without earth or sky and seem to almost merge into each other. Despite this—or perhaps because of it—the physicality of the central blond tree trunk is such that we feel we could reach out and touch it. Williams has conveyed the density of a forest, the sense of being engulfed within a mass of trees.

In Forest Williams shows that he was interested in portraying nature in a new way—in merging a contemporary concern with abstraction, flat surfaces and gesture with an interest in figuration. He also produced etchings and gouaches at this time in which he focused on the trunks of closely grouped trees, reducing his images to semi-abstract vertical lines. In these works, as in Forest, Williams did not just create an impression of a particular place; he also conveyed something about the character of the bush that is absolute and enduring.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008