Fred WILLIAMS | The charcoal burner

Australia 1927 – Australia 1982
England 1951-56

The charcoal burner 1959
oil on composition board
signed: l.r. towards centre: 'Fred Williams'
85.2 (h) x 90.2 (w) cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased 1960
© estate of Fred Williams


While on sketching trip with Arthur Boyd near Echuca in northern Victoria, Williams came across this scene of a figure burning charcoal in the fading light. He completed an on-the-spot sketch of this evening scene which became the basis for this painting completed in his Melbourne studio.

The charcoal burnerreflects Williams’s increasing interest in abstracting elements of the landscape. Here Williams’s created angular forms with plumes of smoke that are then echoed in the curves of the white tent and the rounded shapes of the tree canopy. The vertical and horizontal lines in this work are not rigid but appear to tilt in slightly different directions, while diagonals of the fence-posts draw the eye inward. The work reflects Williams’s keen interest in Cubist approaches to colour, geometry and structure, particularly in the work of Georges Braque, which he had seen in London in the 1950s.

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