Following the death of Sir Clive’s daughter, Marion Orme Page, in 2015, the painting has become the centrepiece of the extensive collection of furniture, books, paintings and porcelain being brought to the market by Aingers at the former McPherson family residence in South Yarra.
The sublime, atmospheric landscape depicts an unidentified avenue in Sydney with all the hallmarks of the artist’s most prized compositions: from the gentle touches of light through the dense foliage of trees lining the avenue, to the informal grouping of elegant women and children in period dress in the background. Though not dated, it is likely the work was painted after the artist’s final return to Australia from Europe in 1913.
The painting also retains its original John Thallon frame and, with conservative estimates of $30,000-40,000, will attract more than a few keen bidders on auction day.
At 29 by 43cm By the Water Mill (Lot 351 ) is one of the larger works on paper by colonial artist ST Gill. It depicts a charming scene of four bullocks waiting with their cargo beside a waterfall and water mill while a man, woman and child stand alongside.
The exact location of the scene has not been identified however it bears notable similarities in composition to the Old Water Mill, Adelaide 1844 in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, though By the Water Mill is considerably larger and a little more resolved.
Reputedly the work was acquired in the late 1800s and then passed down through family connections until it was left, unframed and forgotten, behind a cupboard in a house in Mornington Peninsula. After it was discovered in the 1950s, the painting was authenticated by Joan McClelland and has not been on public view since.
With the current (and first) major retrospective for Gill’s works underway at the National Library of Australia (Australian Sketchbook: Colonial Life and the Art of S.T. Gill, curated by Sasha Grishin) as well as a significant book recently published, also by Grishin, it would appear that Australia’s ‘first great painter of modern life’ is experiencing a renewed appreciation.
By the Water Mill carries a pre-sale estimate of $25,000-30,000.