Fred Williams

Frederick Ronald (Fred) Williams OBE (23 January 1927 – 22 April 1982) was an Australian painter and printmaker. He was one of Australia’s most important artists, and one of the twentieth century’s major painters of the landscape. He had more than seventy solo exhibitions during his career in Australian galleries, as well as the exhibition Fred Williams - Landscapes of a Continent at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1977.
Between 1951 and 1956, Williams studied part-time at the Chelsea School of Art, London (now Chelsea College of Art and Design) and in 1954 he did an etching course at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. He lived in a South Kensington bedsit and subsidised his art practice by working part-time at Savage’s picture framers. Williams returned to Melbourne in 1956, when his family was able to send him a cheap ticket aboard a ship bringing visitors to the Melbourne Olympics.
On his return to Australia, Williams saw the aesthetic potential of the Australian bush in its inherent plasticity. His interest in finding an aesthetic 'language' with which to express the very un-European Australian landscape. This was grounded in establishing a pictorial equivalent to the overwhelmingly vast, primarily flat landscape, in which the traditional European relationship of foreground to background breaks down, necessitating a complete re-imagining of compositional space. In this, Williams looked to the approach taken by Australian Aboriginal artists.
His painting Upwey Landscape (1965) sold for $1,987,700 in one of the final auctions of Christie's in Australia in April 2006, which at the time was the second highest price for any work sold at an Australian auction. In September 2007, auction house Deutscher-Menzies broke their sales record with Williams' Landscape with Water Ponds (1965) selling for $1,860,000. The most expensive work sold at an Australian auction in 2009 was Williams' 1965 Evening Sky, Upwey, which sold for $1.15 million.
Williams' estate is managed by his widow, Lyn Williams. Lyn bought a former factory in inner-Melbourne in 1989 and has managed the artist's estate from there since she sorted through his studio at their former home in Hawthorn. All of the artist's known works have been catalogued on a database. The building houses Williams' easel, brushes, the leather-bound diaries he kept from 1963 until his death, clipping books, a range of works and includes a gallery for hanging and photographing the artist's works. Works that are donated to public galleries and museums are prepared there. In 2009, Lyn Williams completed her ongoing gift to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) of the prints of Fred Williams.