Lloyd Rees’ longstanding association with Bathurst began with his marriage in 1931 to Marjory Pollard, whose family had settled in the area in 1886. The couple visited Bathurst regularly, and it was during one of these stays that Rees painted Autumn Evening, Bathurst. Rees described his ‘love for the city and its countryside, which I have visited for over forty years and painted pictures on practically every occasion.’1
Rees’ biographer Renée Free explains, ‘the Bathurst plains interested Rees rather than the hills for they had a pastoral quality that appealed to him.’2 This pastoral emphasis likely derives from Rees’ affinity with the European masters, including Titian, Claude Lorrain, and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. His works throughout the 1940s are reminiscent of Titian’s folded hills, with the strong sense of idyllic pastoral calmness we see in Autumn Evening, Bathurst.
A persistent focus throughout Rees’ oeuvre is the effect of light on the landscape, particularly how the time of day and year changes the atmosphere: ‘Sometimes the season, or the time of day, is the subject, independent of when the work was painted. Some of Rees’ most beautiful paintings are of evening when the tonal range is narrow and forms stand out clearly.’3 We see this clearly in Autumn Evening, Bathurst, where the moody evening sky blankets the plains with a chilly sense of the approaching night. Fellow artist John Olsen offered a description of Rees’ work which could be directly applied to Autumn Evening, Bathurst: ‘sombre elegiac tonalities that induced a feeling of warm earth regretfully saying farewell to an evening sky.’4
Rees would frequently include manmade elements in his landscapes, not necessarily as their focal point, but to lend nature a human scale. For example, the fence receding into the distance in Autumn Evening, Bathurst is used to emphasise perspective. Rees’ firm focus was always the land, developing a candid and unaffected style of painting. In a review of the 1950 Macquarie Galleries exhibition, this work was noted as being emblematic of Rees’ unequivocal style: ‘Lloyd Rees’s “Autumn Evening, Bathurst,” is a profound exercise in his harsh manner, where he gets down to the bare bones of the earth.’5
Autumn Evening, Bathurst was painted in 1950, a peak period in his outstanding career and the same year that Rees won his first Wynne Prize. Having been held in the prestigious ANZ Art Collection since 1985, Menzies now brings the work to market for the first time in almost forty years.
1. Lloyd Rees, Letter to the Mayor of Bathurst, 1977, Bathurst Regional Art Gallery archives [accessed October 2023]: https://bathurstart.com.au/permanent-collection/exhibition-focus-lloyd-…
2. Free, R., Lloyd Rees, Lansdowne Press Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1972, p.51
3. Free, R., op. cit., p.52
4. Olsen, J., ‘Road to Berry,’ Art and Australia, vol.5, no.3, December 1957
5. 'Sundry Shows: Mermaids, Etc.,' The Bulletin, Sydney, vol.71, no.3669, 7 June 1950, p.21