Fred WILLIAMS, Saplings Enlarge 1 /1


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

  • England 1951-56

Saplings 1962 Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: prints, ink; paper aquatint, drypoint and engraving, printed in black ink, from one copper plate Support: white wove Kent paper
Manufacturer's Mark: no manufacturer's mark
Edition State: 4th state of 9
Impression: proof

Primary Insc: signed lower right below plate-mark in black pencil, 'Fred Williams'. not dated. inscribed lower left below plate-mark in black pencil, 'PROOF 4th State'.
Dimensions: plate-mark 24.7 h x 14.8 w cm sheet 27.2 h x 17.5 w cm
Acknowledgement: Gift of James Mollison, 1985
Accession No: NGA 85.518
Image rights: © Estate of Fred Williams
  • Gift of James Mollison to the NGA, April 1985.

Fred Williams, one of Australia’s greatest landscape painters, created a highly original way of seeing the Australian countryside. Saplings 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 Saplings 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 Saplings, 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