In the late 1960s Fred Williams re-directed his painterly form. Through abstract motifs he transformed the vision of his landscapes to combine a feel for their openness and expansiveness. As identified in Australian Landscape, within the picture plane scattered gestural strokes and dotted markings become suggestive topographical abstractions of trees, rocks and fences one might find in remote, rural areas. Also evident are the active edges of the field where the placement of motifs run off the plane as if to suggest the continued sparseness. Patrick McCaughey identifies the Australian Landscape series as Williams’ “most distinctive” as they encapsulate “so much of his development through the sixties and so much of what was new and important in that decade”, which was most relevantly the colour field movement.(1) Also notable in William’s new artistic direction was his medium. In January 1969 Williams first developed strip gouaches where he divided his sheets into rectangular panels as identified in Australian Landscape. They went on to be a typical pattern for his gouaches in the early years of the 1970s.
(1) Patrick McCaughey, Fred Williams, 1980, Bay Books, New South Wales, p218
During 1969-1970 Fred Williams had three major shows: a 1969 exhibition of new paintings that included ‘the strikingly innovative works’ of that year at Rudy Komon Gallery in Sydney; a further exhibition of selected paintings at Skinner Galleries, Perth, 1970 and perhaps most importantly the artist’s first museum exhibition, Heroic Landscape at the National Gallery of Victoria, 1970.1 This was the first time a major Fred Williams survey had been held in a state gallery and his paintings were exhibited alongside those of the eminent impressionist, Arthur Streeton.
Sapling Diptych was featured in an exhibition of works from the estate of Fred Williams at Philip Bacon Galeries in 2000.
1. Patrick McCaughey, Fred Williams, Bay Books, Sydney, 1980, p. 210