First time works to spark intense auction interest

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 11th August, 2017

Charles Blackman’s The Pink 1953 – acquired directly from the artist’s solo exhibition of that year and held in a private collection ever since – will be auctioned for the first time in Sotheby’s Australia’s forthcoming Important Australian Art sale from 6.30pm Wednesday August 16 at Intercontinental Sydney, 117 Macquarie Street, Sydney.

With a catalogue estimate of $250,000-$350,000 from a total sale projection of at least $9 million, the painting was included recently in the comprehensive Charles Blackman: Schoolgirls exhibition at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne.

Like much of his work, Blackman’s the Schoolgirl series originates from a synthesis of real-world experience and literary inspiration.

In the early 1950s, Blackman and his wife Barbara were living in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn.

While walking to his casual gardening jobs, the artist would see groups of independent schoolgirls in uniform.

This everyday imagery was focused, highlighted and shadowed in Blackman’s imagination by the 1921 Gun Alley Murder story – in which a 12-year-old girl was raped and strangled in a city laneway.

This imagery was reinforced by another more recent murder closer to home, the bashing of his wife’s university friend Betty Shanks.

Australia’s major public institutions – including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria – hold works from the Schoolgirl series.

The auction features many other major works from leading Australian artists including Emmanuel Phillips Fox great impressionist masterpiece Monastery, San Lazzaro 1907 with a catalogue estimate of $300,000-$400,000.

Held since 1908 as part of the renowned Abrahams family art collection built up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the painting only reappeared in 2011 when exhibited at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane.

Melbourne-based, the Abrahams were friends and significant patrons of his fellow artists including Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder, Frederick McCubbin and Tom Roberts.

A significant William Dobell landscape The Narrows Beach 1956 has long been considered one of his finest compositions and is the final in a trio of landscape masterpieces from Lake Macquarie, New South Wales.

It was presented to Thelma Clune in recognition of a “lost” earlier Dobell version Breeze at Wangi 1948 owned by she and husband Frank – stolen and never recovered from the 1948 annual exhibition of the Society of Artists in Sydney.

Two ground-breaking Arthur Boyd and John Perceval paintings from the late 1940s are other attractions.

Boyd’s Moby Dick Hill 1949 (estimate $1 million-$1.2 million) and Perceval’s French Nuns ($350,000-$450,000) were painted after World War II, encapsulating the urgency and vitality of an Expressionist style that contributed to the history and development of 2oth century Australian art.

Sotheby’s Australia chairman Geoffrey Smith says both Boyd and Perceval explored the techniques and subjects of the Old Masters and applied these influences to their contemporary environment.

Awarded equal third prize in the inaugural Dunlop Australian Art Contest, Moby Dick Hill is the most expansive and ambitious of Boyd’s group of paintings from 1948-49.

At the same time, Perceval developed a unique series of religious, secular and genre subjects – in which French Nuns holds particular prominence – considered the most significant of his career.

Two Russell Drysdale paintings – Boy with a Lizard 1966 and Inland Australia 1967 – captured the essence of inland Australia and helped define a national identity at a time of tremendous social change in the country.

Auction viewing is at 30&34 Queen Street, Woollahra in Sydney. 

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