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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.

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Will Ashton

In their own words

Recorded 1960

Will Ashton
Audio: 2 minutes

I give it a great deal of thought and study before I paint a landscape. I try to get to know it. I want to know it well, I draw it, sketch it, and then I’m a direct painter. I paint direct from nature, not spending any great time at it but probably not longer than two hours, and endeavouring to get that particular effect of what it might happen to be, whether it’s early morning, late evening, the twilight, and I should consider I’d failed entirely if I didn’t give the feeling of that country at that particular time.

My palette is very simple; it’s what they call a prismatic palette. There are very few colours in it, I think about six or seven, and I follow that on from my masters in the early days, and although I’ve experimented with others I’ve come back to that each time.

Naturally, I’m in love with nature because … and I believe that the things I love the most I paint the best. I remember, I think it was that Leonardo da Vinci said that landscape painters were grandsons of God.

Probably the – when I say the successful picture I’ve painted, I think the most successful one that I’ve painted is the one that I haven’t painted. One has to have that feeling the whole time, that one must go on trying to succeed, and to do something a little better than done before. But I’m told that I have been successful with certain Paris river scenes and some of my Spanish pictures, I believe, they’ve – I understand that they consider that [they] were reasonably well done. But the joy of doing them, that’s the thing that has given me the greatest pleasure of my life, to be able to go out and do them.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Will Ashton is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Audio source

National Library of Australia, Hazel de Berg collection

Related people

Sir William Ashton OBE

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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 National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency