Fred WILLIAMS | Landscape with a steep road

Australia 1927 – Australia 1982
England 1951-56

Landscape with a steep road 1957-58
oil on composition board
signed, l.l., black oil "Fred Williams". not dated
sight comp 110.3 (h) x 90.9 (w) cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1979
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
NGA 1979.1268
© estate of Fred Williams


The subject of Landscape with a steep road was inspired by time that Williams spent in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales in 1957 with John and Joan Stephens in Colo Vale near Mittagong. It is one of most daring works of the period. Taking a lead from the Cubists, this painting is more about the idea of a road than a literal representation. Against the road’s crisp geometry, the gum tree tops are softened to a haze. The delicate touches of trees along the sharply defined horizon line prefigure Williams’s Upwey landscapes of the 1960s. Near the base of the road Williams included a surreal appendage like a stump. John Stephens wrote in a letter to their mutual friend John Brack: ‘The country here suited [Williams] … He is a sensuous painter and it is quite lush here … There is terrific variety, everything from Streeton to Dali.’

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