I have a problem with books and it is mostly that I like them too much. Particularly art books, because they are full of information and equally beautiful. So my desk is usually buried in monographs and histories. I prefer first editions. I haven’t read all my books, I acquire them far too quickly, but I have looked at the pictures. Sometimes in my job, this is more important.
My most recent book purchase has been a first edition copy of Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967). It was ex-library and irresistibly cheap. Published in 1967 by Cheshire Press, it has an incredible green, and somewhat psychedelic cover and wonderful 60s bubble typeface. It also uses a cut up image of the central figure of Botticelli’s Primavera 1482 which can be found in the Uffizi in Florence. (To the left of this there is also an image of a girl from what looks like an Australian Impressionist painting that I am struggling to identify!) Joan was of course the wife of our previous Director Daryl Lindsay, and the book was in part inspired by the William Ford painting At the Hanging Rock 1875 that is currently on display at NGV Australia.
I find myself reading Lindsay’s beautiful book because of my work on the upcoming Fred Williams exhibition. I’m very interested in the mythology associated with the Australian bush. It is fascinating how Australian people have related to the bush, its beauty and its threats, and how this pervades much of our cultural output.
Thanks to Williams, I also find the incredibly impressive volumes about this artist by past NGV Directors Patrick McCaughey and James Mollison, and exhibition curator Dr Deborah Hart weighing on my desk. I have the great pleasure of working closely with Deborah to bring the exhibition to Melbourne. As the eminence of his monographic authors implies, Williams is one of our most significant landscape artists, and his work can be found in the collections of the Tate in London, and the Met in New York, as well as all of Australia’s major galleries. He was also the first Australian artist to have a solo exhibition at MoMA, New York.
Williams stands out for me because he is one of the most technical and academic painters, yet he does not alienate his audience. You only need to see and experience his work, you don’t need to know about it in advance. This exhibition is certainly not to be missed, make sure you come along.