Fred Williams, one of Australia’s greatest landscape painters, created a highly original way of seeing the Australian countryside. Forest 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 Forest 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 Forest, 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 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008