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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.

Sketch portrait of David Aspden, 1975

Fred Williams

oil on canvas (frame: 109.5 cm x 94.7 cm, support: 106.7 cm x 91.5 cm)

David Aspden (1935-2005), artist, came to Australia from England in 1950. After working for twelve years as a painter and signwriter in Port Kembla, he moved to Sydney, where he had his first solo exhibition at Watters Gallery in 1965. With two more solo shows soon after, Aspden found himself a frontrunner amongst Australia’s formal colour abstractionists; two of his works were included in the seminal National Gallery of Victoria exhibition 'The field' in 1968. The use of colour that the self-taught artist refined in the 1960s became the hallmark of his painting over the ensuing decades. As early as 1970 he was described as ‘Australia’s leading colour-painter’ and in 1971 he was awarded a gold medal at the Sao Paulo biennale. Increasingly, over some time, the hard edges of his interlocking colour blocks softened under the influence of landscape, nature and music. He exhibited in sixteen Wynne Prize exhibitions between 1977 and 1998, winning in 1995. He is represented in the National Gallery, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Queensland Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. A retrospective, David Aspden: The colour of music and place showed at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2011.

Fred Williams (1927–1982) and his wife Lyn played hosts to David Aspden and his family while they were in Melbourne for an exhibition of Aspden’s work. Fred Williams painted Aspden’s portrait in a single morning, and made no changes later. Patrick McCaughey writes that like Williams’s other portraits, it was more a gesture of friendship than a work destined for exhibition. Yet, he asserts, the ‘direct and unselfconscious ease of David Aspden makes it one of the small masterpieces of Williams’s informal portraiture’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Lyn Williams AM 2011
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Fred Williams

Accession number: 2011.43

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Fred Williams (age 48 in 1975)

David Aspden (age 40 in 1975)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

Lyn Williams (4 portraits)

Related information

The Companion

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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.