Auction Highlight Autumn 2016 Robert Juniper

In the early phase of his career, Robert Juniper and other Western Australian painters developed their styles in isolation, far away from Melbourne and Sydney which were the perceptible centres of the Australian art scene.

Juniper became thankful for that remoteness as it allowed him to develop at his own pace, free from the effects of fashion and the art movements that were sweeping through those centres.

He did have doubts about not being on the east coast, and they surfaced from time to time, but soon passed as he felt that he was able to grow as a painter. Juniper also had a teaching career that provided for the family and afforded him the freedom to paint as he wished – “I can think of nothing worse than going into the studio and thinking I’ve got to feed the family.”

In an interview with Laurie Thomas in 1969 Robert Juniper said, “I think it is a painter’s duty if not his goal to be himself – to paint from his own experience, what’s inside him and not from the glossy magazines.” Thomas considered that Juniper had a poetic feeling for the Australian landscape. “I feel that I’m developing what I feel is an indigenous thing – indigenous to Western Australia – because I don’t feel any strong influence from anywhere else,” was another quote from the Thomas interview.

Juniper is correct in his assessment as his work is free from outside influence, though others have been influenced by his work. His success as an artist ensured that he would not be free of imitators as they hitched a ride on his success and rather than be irritated by the others he treated it as a form of flattery.

Lot 68 Robert Juniper - Clay Pan
Lot 68 Robert Juniper – Clay Pan

With this work “Clay Pan”, Juniper has painted a detail of a landscape with no horizon line and minimal figurative elements. He was more concerned with the subject’s texture and experimenting with different materials to create the feeling of being in the presence of a clay pan in high summer. He has succeeded effectively.

As with most of his work, the human influence or presence is never over looked and reminders of earlier habitation is on display. On this occasion it is in the form of a discarded window frame in the upper center of the composition and what could be considered as a road surface and roof lines surrounding the subject.

The Perth metropolitan area has many small pockets of clay and this work was probably inspired by observing a similar subject close to his home in Darlington.

Auction Highlight Autumn 2016 Mac Betts

Lot 3 Mac Betts - Desert Journey
Lot 3 Mac Betts – Desert Journey

It is often thought that painters seek fame and fortune and while those blessings have been imposed upon some, to earn their keep from their training seems to be the highest reward that most painters seek – Mac Betts achieved that status and it was only late in his career and upon his passing, that his contribution to the development of painting in this country is being properly acknowledged.

Instead of remaining at his home in England to forge his career, he travelled and began to explore the world at large. Mac disliked the English weather and craved sunshine and warmth and his first excursion from home allowed him to lecture in art at the Ahmudu Bello University in Northern Nigeria for eight years.

From there he began trekking again and painted in Spain and Northern Africa before finding his way to Western Australia in the early 70’s. He became the senior lecturer in painting and drawing at Curtin University and remained in that position until his retirement in 1992.

From that time on, he was able to devote himself to painting full time. His work was exhibited on a regular basis across Australia, through various galleries in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth including the prestigious Holdsworth, Bonython, Editions and Delaney Galleries.

Lot 41 Mac Betts - Dalgarna Hill Evening
Lot 41 Mac Betts – Dalgarna Hill Evening

George Haynes was to remark “it is fortunate that popularity came later in my career as I wouldn’t know as much about painting as I do now. “ Betts is another of those who can make a similar claim, as his work never stagnated to meet the demands of his audience. It continued to evolve and develop to reflect his requirements as a landscape painter.

Lot 12 Mac Betts - Maritime II
Lot 12 Mac Betts – Maritime II

He never commenced a painting with a preconceived idea and would let the image develop. When the canvas invoked the memory of a place once visited, he would lay down the brushes and apply the title. He carried his travels in his head and always had a steady stream of subjects from which to draw.

The highly regarded artist Elizabeth Ford was in wonder of Betts use of colour. “A visit to his studio inspires me for months” she once said in the presence of Mac and myself. And Mac in his unassuming manner just nodded an acknowledgement of the compliment and continued to work.

Auction Highlight Spring 2015 Desiderius Orban

Lot 58 Desiderius Orban – Fruit and Palette

Margaret Dunn Crowley would say of Orban in her memoir “I learnt more from him than any other teacher” and considering the quality of teaching Dunn Crowley had received, that was an impressive endorsement.

Desiderius Orban was a most important painter and influence in the Australian art world. He arrived in Australia in 1939 after leaving Hungary following the Nazi invasion of Poland. He was 55 years of age and had established a successful career in his homeland where he was a member of the “The Eight,” a group of painters that introduced modern painting techniques into Hungary.

His early years in Australia were difficult and it wasn’t until 1943 following a successful exhibition at the Notanda Gallery in Sydney that he commence teaching. His first students included Margot Lewers, Oscar Edwards and Yvonne Audette. Others to pass through his classes were John Olsen, George Laszlo and John Coburn.

Orban had a profound understanding of matters related to art and was responsible for writing three influential books. They were A Layman’s Guide to Creative Art (1968), Understanding Art (1969) and What is Art All About (1975).

He considered that the basic principle of art teaching was to influence the student as little as possible and impart to the student the method to discover themselves. The main failing of academic teaching he believed was to stifle creativity in all but the genius.

Orban was a person with a strong opinion and according to him the difference between the painter and the artist was that the painter is someone who tried to make a pictorial copy of reality, whereas the artist uses the elements of reality to make a new creation.

This work Fruit and Palette was painted in Australia in the 1950’s and exhibits Orban’s interest in cubism and its use of familiar objects in creating new imagery. In his early years in Paris Orban came into contact with Picasso and Braque and the exposure to those artists influenced his style though not his creativity. He was constantly experimenting with new materials and his technique moved away from cubism to a more formal abstract expressionism in his later years.

The winner of many awards including the Blake Prize for Religious Art in 1967 and 1971, he also conducted summer schools at the University of New England from 1957 to 1967 and gave armchair chats on ABC radio.

His work is included in the collection of every major gallery across Australia and the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest.

Orban was 101 years of age upon his death in Sydney and he had put most of those years into the development and assisting of others to appreciate and understand art.

Auction Highlight Spring 2015 George W.R. Bourne

Lot 54 George W.R. Bourne - Bunbury Harbour
Lot 54 George W.R. Bourne – Bunbury Harbour

Like so many artists working during the turn of the 20th century, few records have been kept to indicate much of the intricacies of their lives in Australia. All that remains as a testament to their time here are the artworks that resurface, few and far between, and in diminishing numbers as they are well sought after by the major galleries and institutions in the country.

George Bourne is one of these artists and this rare and sizable work of his of Bunbury Harbour is only matched in quality by three watercolours that have been acquired by the National Maritime Museum in Canberra.

Records indicate the Bourne arrived in Fremantle from England aboard the Daylight on the 16th of August 1876 and that he worked most ports between there and Adelaide. He was a resident at Esperance Bay 1897-98 and in Albany c.1900-02 and has been identified as the harbourmaster of Bunbury in 1909. His trade was the maritime industry and he divided his time between working aboard ships and painting scenes of these ships and ports.

Aside from this record and a smattering of newspaper articles alluding to the nature of his character (a series of jaunts at the local courthouse), little has been uncovered about the artist whose delicate landscapes offer a timeless account of life in Western Australia during a period of settlement, burgeoning trade and colonialism.

While watercolour is the obvious medium for a professional ship portraitist due to its quick drying qualities, this oil painting by Bourne would have taken some time and consideration.

From the almost pinpoint couple standing at the waters break to the coastal train rocketing towards the length of the jetty that reaches out to a bustling mooring of three-mast ships, to a lone fisherman floating in the bay as a steam ship passes the breakwater – behind which stands the reconstructed Bunbury lighthouse – we can see that this is a thoughtful composition by Bourne that draws the eye well around the canvas.

Not only does this painting allow the viewer an intricate reconstruction of Bunbury harbour at the time, it also offers a glimpse through the eyes of a working man whose life and livelihood, like many other settlers at the time, was deeply reliant on the ocean and seaborne trade.


Auction Highlight Spring 2015 George Haynes

The capricious titles that often accompany George Haynes paintings tend to deflect from the effort and technical know-how that had gone into their making. Up Down and Over the River on a Sunday Afternoon is such a title – a light-hearted one for an intricate depiction of East Fremantle from North Fremantle, with the Swan in between and the span that is Stirling Bridge joining them.

Lot 51 Donald Friend - Up, Down and Over the River on a Sunday Afternoon
Lot 51 Donald Friend – Up, Down and Over the River on a Sunday Afternoon

It is a picturesque day with the river sparkling and a gentle breeze driving a sailboat before it. A couple hand in hand stroll on a pathway and a young man rests in the shade of the bridge surveying all that is before him. A powerboat casting a wake speeds up river and the buildings that are East Fremantle appear pristine and glow in the midday sun.  It is an idyllic summer’s afternoon on the banks of the Swan River that isn’t a river at all – it’s an estuary.

The moored boats, some with masts, face into the breeze all spaced and positioned to aid the vertical and compliment the horizontal of the panorama. The water is choppy to make reflection minimal and not interfere with the order of the design, which ensures our eye does not wander outside the perimeters Haynes has set us.

As we gaze across the panel from left to right (or east to west if you are a local) we notice a change in the tone and length of the shadows. To the west of the bridge the sky takes on an afterglow as the sun sinks into the ocean. The sandy edge of the river has changed from warm to cool and the buildings are no longer bathed in bright light, there is haziness as we peer into twilight. Suddenly it’s realised – there’s a bit more to this work, this isn’t just a scenic expanse of the river using a wide lens profile, it’s a length of day picture.

Haynes has painted the subtle changes of light we experience during the course of an afternoon. He has progressed time from midday to sunset across the width of the panel and the change of light has been introduced so gently and skilfully that it has hardly been detected, just as a day can slip quietly away when we are relaxing or enjoying ourselves with some other temperate activity.

Haynes likes his audience to look at his pictures and see them as well – he believes the longer you look the more you see and he is often reluctant to give a literal explanation of his intent. With all good works there is pleasure in discovery.

Through this picture Haynes is able to combine all the elements of picture making at which he excels, and then he teases us with the title to disguise his purpose. The subject of his picture is not East Fremantle or the Stirling Bridge or the Swan River and its attendant activity; it is the change of light during day. The scenery, while entertaining and topographically relevant, is really a bonus – it’s a prop to aid with the effect Haynes was seeking.

Others may have titled the work, “The Disappearing Day” or “Metamorphous from Noon to Twilight” but then they would be far too literal and the élan that is Haynes would be lost.

Auction Highlight Spring 2015 Donald Friend

Donald Friend’s Night Fishing is an intoxicating blend of myth and landscape, the figurative and the fanciful. It is both as whimsical and self-aware as the prose that fills the pages of Friend’s perceptive publication Donald Friend in Bali, of which the artwork – in its vibrant detail – wraps around the inside covers.

Lot 47 Donald Stuart Leslie Friend Night Fishing
Lot 47 Donald Stuart Leslie Friend Night Fishing

On what was supposed to be only a visit to Bali, Friend decided to stay. He made a place for himself there, not only through his intimacy with the lifestyle and the locals but also through his place within the landscape. It was said that the gods reside in the mountains and the sea is home to the demons, Friend took advantage of this local belief and was able to secure prime waterfront property in Sanur where he built a grand house and striking garden.

He was known as Tuan Rakshasa or Lord Devil because his residence overlooked the place in the ocean where a ferocious demon lived. One could imagine him delighting in the notoriety of his local persona – his nature was to engulf those around him, be they family, friends or acquaintances, and to be referred to as a devil, let alone Lord Devil, would have caused him no end of mirth.

Friend was able to live an opulent lifestyle on Bali, the sales of his works excelled and enabled him to maintain and support a conspicuous lifestyle that included houseboys and gardeners. He became a collector of paintings, bronzes and artefacts, many of which ended up in Australian museums and galleries.

In addition to painting and drawing, he produced a number of manuscripts for books, some of which were published, Donald Friend in Bali and Bumbooziana being the better known and both displaying his wit, skills of observation and talent as a writer.

Friend wrote of the night fishermen,“… The tide is low. You can see the lamps and flares of a hundred fishermen wading ankle-deep in dark water, netting prawns and small fish. Their lights meander slowly over the shadowy shallows like a festival of stars, incandescence is fragmented in placid ripples. As always, music sounds somewhere near, and a yelp or two from some damned scavenging village dog, and the sound of someone laughing.”

Night Fishing was painted in Sanur when it was mainly a fishing village and superstitions were strong. Friend has drawn on a local legend as the subject of his painting and completed it in his unmistakable style. The demon in this image is most probably the fanged Djero Geide Metajaling who lived on the island of Nusa Penida which was visible from Donald Friend’s house – night was the time the demons were active as their strength was at its most heightened.

Auction Highlight Spring 2015 Alexander Colquhoun

Joseph Brown, the doyen of Australian art dealers, was the founding adviser to many great collections of art. Wesfarmers and numerous other high profile collectors consulted him in the early years of their collections development and his mark is indelibly imprinted on their holdings.

His judgement was impeccable and he was instrumental in encouraging his clients and state collecting bodies to re-visit and buy Australian art. His enthusiasm generated energy and interest in a market that had languished for years and was considered to be a buyer’s playground.

Brown rarely made mistakes when cataloguing and his gallery’s well respected research staff could be exhaustive in their efforts to find previously unknown information. No stone was left unturned in the quest for provenance and his catalogues were always full of important information.

In his 1980 auction catalogue something went astray with this picture by Alexander Colquhoun, he catalogued the work as being by Alexander’s son Archibald. Perhaps Brown had relied upon the previous owner’s recollections of the author or maybe he had acquired the work from a local auction house without provenance.

Lot 38 Alexander Colquhoun - A Spring Morning
Lot 38 Alexander Colquhoun – A Spring Morning

When the painting was offered again in 2004 the error had not been corrected. It wasn’t until the work had been sold at the auction that the correct artist, title and exhibition history was uncovered. Alexander’s son would have been five years old when A Spring Morning was painted.

As it was revealed, A Spring Morning was exhibited at the Victorian Artists Society Exhibition of 1899 during the period known as The Golden Age of Australian Impressionism – when the Heidelberg School became famous. The painting was illustrated in the VAS catalogue and was priced at twenty guineas (£21) – artists were paid in guineas and tradesmen were paid in pounds.

The Heidelberg School remains the most admired and respected in Australian art and Alexander Colquhoun was a member of that group, though his prominence had remained largely unknown.

To correct the oversight, a survey exhibition – Alexander Colquhoun 1862-1941 Artist and Critic – was held at the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum in 2004. This exhibition caused Colquhoun’s importance within Australian art history to become better acknowledged.  A Spring Morning was included in that exhibition.

The Castlemaine Gallery director Peter Perry noted that Colquhoun had been overlooked in the published histories of the Heidelberg School though his association with the founders was well known.

Colquhoun, Roberts, Streeton, Abrahams and McCubbin were all members of the Buonarotti Club which was a Melbourne institution considered to be instrumental in the development of the Heidelberg School.  As an advocate of bohemian ideas the membership was composed of mainly professional artists, writers and musicians, and while there were many other clubs in Melbourne their numbers were generally made up of amateurs. Although the Buonarotti Club was short lived (1883-1887) its influence on Melbourne’s artistic life was profound.

A mother and child in the orchard are typical of the Heidelberg School subject and A Spring Morning was probably painted in the area. Colquhoun lived in Heidelberg for a time and was to write; “Old Heidelberg…. the beauty spot of outer Melbourne, yielding in its sheltered valleys and smiling orchards something of the peace and charm of a Sussex village.”

Colquhoun was 14 when he arrived in Australia with his parents and he studied at the National Gallery School in Melbourne from 1877-1879 and again from 1882-1887. He became a trustee of the National Gallery of Victoria from 1936-1941 and was highly regarded as a critic, writing for The Melbourne Herald from 1914-1922 and The Age from 1926-1941. He served as the Secretary of the Victorian Artist Society from 1904-1914 and is also credited with writing the first monographs on Frederic McCubbin and William Beckwith McInnes.

He was an influential figure in his time and his work is included in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria and the National Gallery in Canberra.

Auction Highlight Spring 2015 Guy Grey-Smith

Lot 35 Guy Grey Smith - Nullagine
Lot 35 Guy Grey Smith – Nullagine

“I found de Stael’s painting gave me an avenue of freer individual development – the simplification of form and the simpler movement of action.”

Guy Grey-Smith was a painter and a potter and it was his practice as a potter from which his painting technique evolved. His works in oils and clay could be described as having a refined-coarse quality and being quintessentially Australian. And while (by his own admission) de Stael may have sewn the seed, Grey-Smith shaped the final result to suit his needs as a painter and to contain the ruggedness of the Northern Australian landscape as a subject.

There’s a timeless quality to his works that have roots in the recent past and branches into the future. His paintings provide a constant source of intrigue as they are more complex than they first appear. The nuances in the primary colours, that he uses to telling effect, and the variation in paint quality to represent the different surfaces on show are uniquely his.

The physical act of painting was a performance he enjoyed and in this work Nullagine all of his talents and knowledge of making exciting art is on display.