Menzies Art Brands



The sun and its lighta metaphor of life, but also of the incomprehensible and unencompassable universe, its expression is metaphysical.1

Titan of Australian landscape painting, Lloyd Rees, had an extensive career spanning over seven decades. It was in the last years of his life, however, the period in which he painted A Morning Vision at Northwood 1986, that he truly revealed the sublime nature of the landscape and the immense divinity which he derived from it. Overcoming illness, old age and poor sight, this work is a testament not only to the determined commitment and devotion to painting to which Rees dedicated his life but also to the universal quest of mankind in coming to terms with his natural surroundings.

The present work is based on Rees local environment at the time, Northwood in Tasmania, and is executed in a light, masterful brushwork using a muted palette, reminiscent of the European masters. Rees captures the elements of light and movement with tenacious sensitivity, giving way to an emotive sense of enlightenment. Pale blues and neutral pinks cover the canvas in vivid movements, creating a calming effect on the eye but one also senses a holy light that seemingly emanates from beneath the brushwork, a force greater than both man and nature.

The musicians symbols are abstractions in themselvesthe artists symbols are mostly based on natural objects. But if his command over them is complete, he can evolve, by the simplest means, a pure creation of the human mind, an abstraction in precisely the same sense and degree as a work in architecture or music.2

A Morning Vision at Northwood 1986 perfectly balances abstraction and representation of subject matter. Rees ability to simplify his surroundings to its most basic elements in this way highlights a spiritual connection not only to the landscape itself but also to the physical medium of oil paint which he orchestrates with a mighty command as he builds each part of the canvas to an all-encompassing whole.

It is with astute awareness of the intricacies of the natural environment and a refined technical acumen that comes only with decades of practice that Rees captures what can only be described as a transcendental, emotional reaction to natures elements of light and colour. A Morning Vision at Northwood 1986 is an Australian masterpiece comparable to J.M.W. Turners Sunrise with Sea Monster (1845).

Rees spoke of his European influences fondly, In the field of landscapes I have been absorbed in the works of very many, ranging from the background landscapes of Italian fresco painters to Titian, Brueghel, Claude Lorraine, Rubens (The Magnificent who could command a large landscape as few have ever done), through to Constable, Turner, Corot, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Kokoschka..3 Despite his vast knowledge of art history, he maintained that once a picture has come to life, it dictates the terms of its own creation.4

His Australian contemporaries included such acclaimed painters as Arthur Streeton, Roland Wakelin, Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd among others. His painting style is realistic, with a focus on precise qualities and tones, entertaining brushwork, solid surface quality, selective choice of subject, and above all, vibrantly rich and lustrous colours.

A Morning Vision at Northwood 1986 was painted the same year Rees received the Painters and Sculptors Association of Australia Medal, the highest honour for an Australian artist. The following year he was awarded the prestigious Mdaille de la Ville de Paris for his contribution to the arts. It was during this period that Rees exemplified the notion of a boundless universe combined with mans struggle against the forces of nature, producing the greatest paintings of his extensive career.

Lloyd Rees works are held in the National Gallery of Australia, most state galleries, significant public and private collections abroad and at home. Along with winning many noteworthy arts prizes including the Wynne Prize (twice), major retrospectives have been held of his work, including an exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2002.  

1. Kolenberg, H., Lloyd Rees: The Tasmanian Suite, Bonython-Meadmore Gallery, Sydney, 1987
2. Rees, L., What is good drawing, in Art in Australia, 23 February 1940
3. Free, R., Lloyd Rees, Lansdown Australian Art Library, Melbourne, 1972, p.101
4. Ibid

Tessa Dorman MA (Art History and Theory)

We use our own and third party cookies to enhance your experience of our site, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing. By continuing to use our site you consent to the use of cookies. Please refer to our privacy and cookie policy.