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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.

Fred Williams, 1980

Andrew Sibley

pencil on paper (sheet: 53.8 cm x 43.8 cm)

Fred Williams OBE, painter and etcher, was one of the most important Australian artists of the twentieth 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. In his monumental works of 1969, he attempted to evoke the vast scale of the Australian land through canvases of a single colour dotted with tiny flecks of paint. Although Williams later turned to representation of denser, more colourful terrain, his bare, uncompromising pictures of the 1960s contributed profoundly to subsequent interpretation of the Australian landscape. Williams made a number of portraits of friends and family members, particularly during the 1970s. He completed his first portrait commission, of Sir Louis Matheson, first Vice Chancellor of Monash University, in 1976; portraits of University of Melbourne figures followed. The National Portrait Gallery has his self portrait at the easel, and his portrait of Murray Bail, with whom he served on the Council of the National Gallery of Australia. Subjects of his other masterly portraits include Rudy Komon and John Brack.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010
© Andrew Sibley/Copyright Agency, 2020

Accession number: 2010.166

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Andrew Sibley (age 47 in 1980)

Fred Williams (age 53 in 1980)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Clifton Pugh painting in the studio, 1974 Fred Williams
Clifton Pugh painting in the studio, 1974 Fred Williams
Clifton Pugh painting in the studio, 1974 Fred Williams
Clifton Pugh painting in the studio, 1974 Fred Williams

Painting mates

Magazine article by Michael Desmond, 2011

Michael Desmond discusses Fred Williams' portraits of friends, artist Clifton Pugh, David Aspden and writer Stephen Murray-Smith, and the stylistic connections between his portraits and landscapes.

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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.