Fred Williams (1927-82) is one of Australia’s most respected and influential twentieth-century artists. He is best known for his distinctive depictions of the Australian landscape, where the horizon line is removed to create a seamless melding of the sky and land, and elements of the countryside are reduced to simple image markings on a flat plane of striated colour.
Williams travelled to Queensland in mid-1971 and 1973. The experience expanded his colour palette to include the rich purples and greens of the exotic rain forests and tropical vegetation of the region.
In 1977 Williams made his first light plane flight, travelling to Weipa on the west coast of Cape York, Queensland. For the first time he saw the vastness of the Australian landscape from an aerial perspective. This experience had a profound effect on Williams and led to the creation of what many still consider his finest works – the Weipa series.
The Weipa works fall into two main categories, those of the landscape, where the tropical vegetation meets the shoreline, and closer, more intimate studies of specific types of vegetation.
In the same year that Williams flew to Weipa he became the first Australian artist to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1980 works from the Weipa series were exhibited in Paris, captivating audiences and taking Australian landscape painting by late 19th-century impressionist artists to a new level of modernity and abstraction.
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The Cairns Art Gallery acknowledges the Gimuy Walubarra Yidinji and Yirrganydji as the Traditional Owners of the area today known as Cairns. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, names or voices of deceased persons in photographs, film or text.