IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Ethel Carrick Fox

Ethel Carrick Fox Au Marche
Ethel Carrick Fox 1872 – 1952 Au Marche c.1908 oil on wood panel 27 x 35 cm

“The energy and liveliness of outdoor crowds occupied Ethel Carrick Fox throughout her career, and she was particularly fascinated by markets, parks and beaches. Perfect subjects for her swiftly wrought impressions, these turn-of-the-century public spaces were being transformed by modernity.” Angela Goddard, ‘Modernity in Motion: Ethel Carrick’s crowds’ in Art, Love & Life: Ethel Carrick & E. Phillips Fox, Queensland Art Gallery, 2011, p.79
Ethel Carrick Fox has been described as ‘colourful’ and ‘daring’, both in her art and her life. An inevitable comparison with her husband Emanuel Phillips Fox certainly bears this out, as she moved beyond an impressionist sensibility to the more colourful and linear style of post-impressionism, as would have been the flavour in Paris. Her paintings of daily life; flower studies and works inspired by travels, are imbued with vibrant colour, strong composition and a concern to explore light. Her inclusion in the Salon d’Automne (created in 1903 as a move away from the academic and bringing movements such as fauvism and cubism to greater notice) from 1906, further highlights her lifelong trend of not conforming to social expectations of the time; particularly focussing on her career. 

Ethel Carrick Fox is best known for her vibrant paintings created en plein air, capturing the leisure class of Paris – the markets; parks; gardens and beaches of France. The rich dabs of pure bright colour and a focus on decorative rather than narrative elements, allow the strength of her understanding of colour and her considered compositions to shine through.
Carrick Fox established her successful career in Paris and London and in her regular visits to Australia, where she held exhibitions of her work and undertook painting excursions. A painting of a French flower market by Carrick Fox sold at auction in 1996 becoming the highest price achieved by an Australian woman artist; with more recent sales over one million dollars (in 2008 and 2019) overtaking this earlier precedent.

Read more about this artwork

Ethel Carrick Fox biography

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Charles Blackman

Charles Blackman OBE 1928 – 2018 Portrait of a Young Girl with a Bow in her Hair
charcoal on paper on composition board. 50.8 x 38.4 cm
Copyright the Estate of Charles Blackman

Charles Blackman is one of Australia’s most celebrated and significant figurative artists and was an exceptional draughtsperson. His use of pen and ink, charcoal and pencil – from quick sketches to large sized works on paper – was a constant throughout his life. His drawings bear evidence of the personal nature of his art, used to record ideas, capture daily life, and explore composition in an expressive manner. There is, of course, an immediacy to drawings, particularly black and white images with no distractions other than the dark line across a page. 

The 1960s saw Blackman complete a number of strong graphic works, many depicting his family, particularly with the arrival of his son Auguste in 1957 and daughter, Christabel, in 1959. In 1960 Blackman was awarded the Helena Rubenstein prize and selected to exhibit in the Whitechapel Gallery in London, where the Blackman family moved before returning to Australia in 1967, when this drawing was completed.

Portrait of a Young Girl with a Bow in her Hair is a direct and sweet work, full of love and the innocence of childhood, with the child directly engaging the viewer. There is a calm and gentleness to the drawing, perhaps emphasized through the use of charcoal with its richness of texture and softer edge than pen or pencil. As McCulloch noted when the work was exhibited in 1994, “Interesting to contrast is 1967’s Young Girl with a Bow with 1984’s Beatrice Drawing on Herself – both drawings of his two daughters at the same age. The latter has a saccharine sweetness absent in the earlier, more direct but equally delicious work.” (Susan McCulloch, ‘The bush characters’, Herald Sun, Melbourne, 20 April 1994, p. 7)

Blackman is represented in the National Gallery of Australia and in all state galleries, as well as numerous regional and university galleries, in addition to private and corporate collections throughout Australia and internationally. He was awarded an OBE in 1997 and honoured with a survey exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Schoolgirls and Angels, in 1993.

Further information:

Read more about this artwork
Charles Blackman Biography
Charles Blackman artworks in the stockroom


Hans Heysen Morning Break 1922
Hans Heysen Morning Break 1922

“There is something immensely exhilarating when tall white gums tower into the blue heavens – the subtle quality of the edges where they meet the sky – how mysterious.”
Carrol, A., North, I., and Treganza, J., Hans Heysen Centenary Retrospective 1877 – 1977, Art Gallery Board of South Australia, 1977, p.12

This striking watercolour highlights the majesty of the Australian gum tree rising even beyond the picture plane and is typical of Heysen’s celebrated landscapes, many painted around his home in Hahndorf where his conservation efforts continue to be enjoyed at The Cedars today. Heysen had a passion for depicting such ancient trees, especially with a glow filtering through the branches, providing a contrast between light and shadow. The resting figure and quiet horses lend a calm atmosphere and give perspective to the heroic trees.

Read more about Hans Heysen and Morning Break.


Knee Deep in the Willows  2003
synthetic polymer on composition board
120 x 240 cm

Knee Deep in the Willows depicts a Friesian cow stranded in the mud and includes a frustrated farmer, hands on hips, on the other side of the river, contemplating the next move. The scene is inspired by the artist’s wanderings amongst the willows near his home in northern Tasmania, either fishing or with his dogs, where he is often confronted with a Friesian cow strayed from nearby grazing paddocks. Humans are rare in McWilliams’ painting. However, recent works introduce a human dialogue into his usual animal inhabited world. 
A further treasure in this painting is a Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger hidden in the shadows, a subtle conservationist statement from the artist who is passionate about their ongoing existence despite human intervention in their environment.

McWilliams’ craft has evolved from smaller scale works, particularly painted wooden panels or painting on furniture, to larger scale canvases where the landscape is the focus. Much of McWilliams’ knowledge of antiques was acquired during his teenage years when he travelled with his father on buying trips around Tasmania for their antique shop in Longford. McWilliams explains “I started painting on furniture simply because I liked the old timber, and it was at hand. I enjoy painting things that are close to me: water, trees and mountains, and familiar local animals.” 

In many of his works, it’s a fleeting moment in nature that he captures and preserves. The viewer curious to see what is inside is presented with a delightful surprise. The element of hidden surprise adds an extra dimension to McWilliams’ painting. Look carefully at the artworks as those who undertake the treasure hunt will be rewarded with a glimpse of a thylacine, a favoured motif of the artist. Like many, he is incredulous that human intervention could cause the extinction of this species and hopes that perhaps there are still a few Tasmanian Tigers out there, hiding in the shadows as they are in his paintings. McWilliams has been interested in the Thylacine since he was a child, McWilliams explains “I’ve drawn it since I was small, and have always tried to imagine what it would be like to see one and to consider different relationships we could have, like having one for a pet. I try to imagine them into my life.” 

The added element of fun and humour is a familiar trait in Michael’s work although it does not detract from his environmental message which prompts the viewer to question the relationship between humans and animals, whether wild or domestic; the relationship between native and introduced species; and the relationship between humans and the environment and the impact this has made for native species in particular.

2016    Winner, Children’s Choice, John Glover Art Prize for Tasmanian Landscape
2015    Winner, People’s Choice, John Glover Art Prize for Tasmanian Landscape, Tasmania
2014    Winner, People’s Choice, Hanger’s Choice, John Glover Art Prize for Tasmanian Landscape
2013    Winner, Children’s Choice, John Glover Art Prize for Tasmanian Landscape, Tasmania
2012    Winner, People’s Choice, Bay of Fires Art Prize, St Helens, Tasmania
2011     John Glover Art Prize for Tasmanian Landscape, Tasmania, finalist
2010    Wynne Prize for Landscape, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Finalist
2010    John Glover Art Prize for Tasmanian Landscape, Tasmania, finalist
2008    Wynne Prize for Landscape, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Finalist
2008    The Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize, The South Australian Museum, Winner
2008    John Glover Art Prize for Tasmanian Landscape, Tasmania, Hon. Mention
2008    Fleurieu Biennale Art Prize, South Australia
2007    John Glover Art Prize for Tasmanian Landscape, Tasmania
2006    John Glover Art Prize for Tasmanian Landscape, Tasmania, Hon. Mention
2005    The Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize, The South Australian Museum, Winner
2004    John Glover Art Prize for Tasmanian Landscape, Tasmania, Winner
1996    Tasmanian Art Award, Eskleigh, Perth, Tasmania, Winner
1994    Trust Bank Open Art Award, Launceston, Tasmania, Winner
Queensland Art Gallery                                  Danish Royal Family
Tasmania Museum and Art Gallery                Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Natural Trust of Australia (Tasmania)             Parliament House, Canberra
Devonport City Art Gallery                             The Glover Society
Museum of South Australia                            Lauraine Diggins, Melbourne
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Tasmania

Further information:
Michael McWilliams, Knee Deep in the Willows
Michael McWilliams Biography
Michael McWilliams artworks in the stockroom


JAMES GLEESON  1915 – 2008
After the Transit  1989
oil on canvas
172 x 230 cm

James Gleeson was born in Sydney in 1915 and brought up by his Aunt and Mother. He was three when his father died. Gleeson trained at East Sydney Technical College and then spent time teaching both at primary level and lecturing at Sydney Teachers College. From 1949 to 1972 he was art critic for the Sun and from 1962 for the Sun Herald. Throughout his life Gleeson travelled moderately, visiting Europe, the States, South America, South Pacific and Japan. He spent most of his life in Sydney.

Influenced particularly by artists such as Salvador Dali, Hieronymous Bosch and van Gogh, Gleeson succeeded in becoming Australia’s first and foremost surrealist artist. He invites the unconscious to appear seeking fuller self knowledge. Like many of the Surrealists, Gleeson kept paper and pen beside his bed to record his dreams and used various painting techniques including frottage, decalcomania and impasto.

By 1980s the artist had pushed the extreme of the figure so far that to him it had almost become unrecognizable, hence his work became more abstract as he no longer felt the need to use form at all. This resulted in his later works being mainly oil on large canvasses and is particularly pleasing, showing how Gleeson’s struggle within eventually matured to a more calm, balanced depiction.

James Gleeson’s artworks have been included in the following public and private collections: Lapsed Shadows Recycled to a Capable Coast of 1988 in the Art Gallery of New South Wales; The Opening Gate of 1989 in the Colin and Liz Laverty Collection; The Dance of 1989 in the James Fairfax Collection; The Darkening Stage of 1991 in the National Gallery of Victoria and The Secret Heart of the Headland of 1991 in the National Gallery of Australia. 

Further information:
James Gleeson, After The Transit
James Gleeson Biography
James Gleeson artworks in the stockroom