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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Self portrait at easel

1960-1961
Fred Williams

oil on masonite (frame: 100.8 cm x 75.3 cm, support: 89.1 cm x 61.0 cm)

Fred Williams was one of the most important Australian artists of the 20th century. His unique landscape vision emerged in the late 1950s, after his return from a period of study and work in London. The 1960s saw an increasing minimalism in his paintings, which reached its most extreme point at the end of the decade. His monumental works of 1969 sought to evoke the scale of the Australian landscape through canvases of a single colour dotted with tiny flecks of paint, his bare, uncompromising pictures contributing profoundly to subsequent Australian interpretations of place.

This painting, one of the very first acquisitions of the National Portrait Gallery, was the last and most considered of his few self portraits. The work of painting is emphasised; here is no tousle-haired, tortured genius but a diffident, sober man going about his business. The treatment of the jacket is reminiscent of that of rocks and trees in his landscapes of the same period and the work is characteristically enlivened with touches of vibrant colour on cheekbones and ears.

Gift of Lyn Williams 1998. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.
© Fred Williams

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Fred Williams (age 33 in 1960)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

Lyn Williams (4 portraits)

© National Portrait Gallery 2022
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency