This auction will undoubtedly be one of the most prestigious art sales of the century in Australia so far.
It includes works from the Estate of the late Yvonne Boyd, former matriarch of the Boyd artistic dynasty, who with her husband Arthur donated their vast Shoalhaven property in 1993 to the Australia public.
Works from the Boyd family include the well crafted Shoalhaven Riverbank with Cockatoos and Black Swan by Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd (1920-1999).
The auction also includes works by such luminary artists in the history of Australian art as Albert Namatjira, Rupert Bunny, Horace Trenerry, Sidney Nolan, Sir Arthur Streeton, Ray Crooke, Donald Friend, Brett Whitely, Sir George Russell Drysdale, Fred Williams, Cressida Campbell, Jeffrey Smart, Tim Storrier, Charles Blackman, Vida Francis Lahey, Bill Henson, Sir Hans-Heysen, Emanuel Phillips Fox, Norman Lindsay, Tracey Moffat and John Henry Olsen.
Its good to see works by such renowned artists are still available on the open market in Australia.
This means private collectors have an opportunity to bid against institutions and the prospect can certainly makes for potentially spirited bidding wars.
Paul Sumner, the Managing Director of Mossgreen remarks that ‘two fine works by Australia’s Impressionist artist, John Peter Russell are stand out highlights of the auction.
Lot 18 is a very rare Alpine snow scene Neige while the other Lot 48, is a luminescent Belle-ile work Entrance to a Fjord.
It comes from an important private Melbourne Collection.
The Russell Drysdale (1912-1981) work “Two Boys” first sold in a collection at Sydney in 1978.
Of mixed media, this is an interesting image part drawing, part painting that portrays a young man and his son perhaps pondering their dreams and future?
It’s appeal is that immediately it’s like a quick skillful sketch, one that helped him in mature age to keep his creative juices flowing, while in looking you find it really is much more…a hazy memory evoked and recorded, and then carefully highlighted with gold so it wouldn’t fade – ‘unlike those superb sad empty pictures he made in which a town was an empty street, a pub was one bored man leaning against a verandah post’.
Drysdale was an important artist of the so-called ‘Hill End’ painters, that included Donald Friend, John Olsen and Margaret Olley whose works were integral to my early experiences of Australian art and artiss.
Hill End was the inspiration and home to three generation of Australian artists and I will never forget visiting there and experiencing its powerful atmosphere for myself. It included the gold mining towns of Hill End and Sofala.
The countryside was rich historically, left ruinous and scarred by the gold rush period of the 1870’s. It was peopled over the years by those who had proved their resilience and ability to perserve against all odds, so integral to early Australian character formation.
This amazing place provided Drysdale with much inspiration for his paintings of the late 1940’s; memorable images of rural and outback Australia that combined the ordinary with the heroic, a great hallmark of all his works.
The original Hill End group began breaking up in 1957, with Donald Friend leaving for Sri Lanka. John Olson moved in during the early 60’s and Brett Whitley also went their to draw. The village was declared a historic site in 1967 and three decades later in 1995, the Art Gallery of NSW established the Hill End Artists in Residence Program there.
It is now seen as almost as a rite of passage in NSW for artists to live and work at Hill End.
There are also international works in the auction one highlight being A Winter Evening in Swanston Street, Melbourne (Lot 21), painted by Atkinson Grimshaw, an English Victorian era artist noted for his landscapes.
John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893) is known for liking the Pre-Raphaelite style, and especially the effect of moonlight on water as immortalised by the great English artist JM Turner. Light on water was the rage during the 1850’s as part of the ‘Romantic movement’ where irregular silhouettes against the skyline became very evocative and Grimshaw became known for his views of the docks by moonlight in London, Leeds and Liverpool.
Apart from landscapes, Grimshaw also painted portraits, interiors, fairy pictures and neoclassical subjects and his paintings of gas-lit streets looking through mist provided images of yet another world…where the spirit of the night reigned supreme.
He was also contemporarily known to be interested in photography. He was found to have tried ‘painting over them’, shocking some modern art historians, although perhaps understandable in an age when ‘photography’ was all brand new.
John Atkinson Grimshaw signed himself ‘JAG’ or JA Grimshaw or John Atkinson Grimshaw in his early works, dropping the ‘John’ from his signature by 1867.
He was very popular during the 1870’s at London when he showed five works over the decade at the Royal Academy.
Its attribution has remained a puzzle for researchers for many years, because unlike other artists of his time when he died aged only 57, Grimshaw did not leave behind letters or documents that recorded his work and life. Grimshaw was interestingly, never known to have visited Australia and so the only clue is that this painting was purchased from the artist by a former manager of the Athenaeum Club, Collins Street, Melbourne when he reputedly stayed there around 1890-1892, a year prior to his death.
The curator of the National Gallery of Victoria conducted extensive research in London during the 1980’s, but to date no further evidence has turned up that Grimshaw ever came on a journey down under, so how this work was recorded remains a mystery for many. We could speculate that he was commissioned to paint it from a photograph and it was brought to Australia by someone else to give to the ‘manager’ of the Athenaeum Club, originally founded in London as a meeting place for men and women who enjoyed ‘the life of the mind’. But like all art mysteries it will perhaps remain one forever.
The stylistic influences of art always reflect their age and in that regard, the lure of the past remains strong. The bidding will start with Arthur Streeton’s master-work Ariadne, painted in 1895, a work that has been exhibited in many of Australia’s leading art galleries over the years.
There are works by contemporary artists in this show including English born Australian immigrant the Dobell Prize winner for Drawing Timothy Maguire, who has lived and worked in France and the UK since 1992.
Maguire is a true international artist and his works hang in all major art galleries of Australia, in Universities around the country, in Corporate Collections, Private Collections around the world as well as in the Clubs, who have a history of collecting art.
Maguire is into detail as he selects, arranges, creates and presents his subject.
His Untitled 2005 is a powerful image by the so-called ‘master of perfect imperfection’.
His canvases are of grand proportion and it would be impossible to walk past one without stopping to admire its many nuances, including natural decay reminding us of the transient beauty of art and nature.
What’s fashionable one moment has often faded by the next.
All art is after all, the art of now. And, it’s only the works of true masters who stand the test of time that we tend to remember and idolize.
Picking one work to champion from this auction packed with so many, will be a dilemma for many and a straightforward choice for others.
For those with memories of growing up at the beach like me, the Dorothy Mary Braund (1926-2013) painting of John and Audrey depicted looking out to sea is one I would certainly enjoy to own (Lot 16).
The estimate indicates it is still at a ‘reasonable price’ and hopefully will appeal to younger investors in the art market who have embraced the concepts of Modernism.
Born at Melbourne, Dorothy Braund was an early practitioner of Modernism in Australia, and her work represented in a landmark exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1992.
Both a teacher and ‘Peninsula’ artist in Victoria, Braund displayed her own distinctive approach to both painting and drawing, which was so beautifully refined and sophisticated.
Its simple shapes and beautifully balanced composition certainly appeals to my sensibilities and fits well with my philosophy of life.
Art is after all the place where the head, heart and hand of man come together and the visible expression of something profound and invisible.
Currently expanding both its reach and reputation as being a foremost leader in the individual exhibition, private and public sale of art and antiques in Australia, Mossgreen has a team of advisors and consultants second to none.
This now includes internationally acclaimed Sydney based dealer Martyn Cook. In the future Mossgreen and Martyn Cook will present auction previews and gallery exhibitions in his stylish gallery at Rushcutter’s Bay in Sydney, in an ongoing program.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014