Menzies Art Brands
  • CLARICE BECKETT - Moonrise



Estimate: $50000 - 70000




oil on board
28.0 x 41.0 cm; 42.5 x 55.0 cm (framed)
signed lower left: C Beckett
inscribed verso by Hilda Mangan (the artist's sister): Indefinite/ Moonrise

Rosalind Humphries Galleries, Melbourne (label attached verso)
Binny Lum, Melbourne
Estate of the above

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Dr Rosalind Hollinrake with cataloguing this work

Estimate: $50000 - 70000

         A hallmark of Clarice Beckett’s painting is her extraordinary ability to envelop her subjects in atmosphere.(1)

Rarely seen for nearly 50 years, Moonrise illustrates Clarice Beckett’s commitment to developing her own mature and quietly confident style. The soft focus of the work is both contemplative and intoxicating at the same time. A deceptively flat surface treatment is belied by the perceived depth experienced by the viewer, as if we have just closed our eyes to the scene and the blurred memory is what is left.

The strong, dominant cliff top, an enduring feature of Melbourne’s bayside, anchors the centre of the image. A parallel timber fence runs along the bottom of the picture plane bringing the viewpoint forward and to the right, towards the tufts of ti-tree. The strong vertical lines of the charcoal grey tree trunks bring our gaze back to the rugged cliffs and a lone branch draws our eye further upwards to the rising moon, the smoky pink and apricot sky reflected in the shallows below.

Within walking distance from her home in Beaumaris, Half Moon Bay in Black Rock was a favourite location for Beckett, capturing the changing nuances of light and shadows and atmospheric effects. No renditions of the scene are exactly the same - one day a sandy beach is framed by a scrubby ti-tree and the next day a receding wave exposes a rocky outcrop or a shimmering sandbank. Beckett would often return to favoured locations at different times of day, travelling with her innovative mobile painting trolley and easel, capturing everyday moments. Misty mornings along Beach Road, hazy summer days at Beaumaris beach, foggy lights along St Kilda Road, Beckett was content to paint her surrounds more than once, with each work having its own point of difference.

Born into a middle-class family and developing a taste for literature and the arts, Beckett spent her time absorbed in poetry, theosophy and drawing. In 1914, at the age of 27, she finally convinced her parents to let her undertake formal art training for three years at the National Gallery School under Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917). Beckett pursued a fourth year under Max Meldrum (1875-1955) at his newly opened school where she would be greatly influenced by Meldrum’s belief that painting could reveal the appearance of an object, reflected by light through tonal application. The shifting qualities of light throughout any one given day would become a cornerstone for Beckett’s works. When considered as a whole, Beckett’s artworks capture a fleeting moment in time, when life was less hurried. Each work held its own place and she often juxtaposed previously exhibited works with new ones on a similar theme to create a visual resonance between them.

Clarice Beckett’s works now command the respect they were denied during her lifetime. The subject of two recent major retrospective exhibitions (Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, and Geelong Art Gallery, Victoria), Beckett has become recognised as a trailblazer for female artists, something unbeknownst to her at the time, and arguably the most recognised style of a female Melbourne artist of the 1920s and 30s.

Moonrise is the quintessential example of Beckett’s unique and timeless style. The haze of the sunset blurs our vision for just a second as we immerse ourselves in the atmosphere. The subtle shifts of tone and focus make us recall our own memories of this familiar scene. As curator and art historian Ted Gott noted in 2000, you don’t view a Beckett painting - you experience it.(2)


1. Lock, T., The Present Moment: The Art of Clarice Beckett, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2021, p.102
2. Gott, T., Clarice Beckett 1887-1935, Niagara Galleries, Melbourne, 2000, p.5

Lyn Johnson
Lyn Johnson is an art historian, curator, author of John Ford Paterson: A Family Tradition (2010) and previously the Deputy Director at McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery.


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