Much of Brown’s incomparable Australian art collection now resides in the National Gallery of Victoria.
Whiteley was fascinated with birds of all shapes and sizes, often observing their behaviour at his Lavender Bay home and featuring them in many of his works and this painting, in particular, highlights his strong adoration for the creatures.
It is understood the painting was inspired by the lower right-hand panel of Giotto Bondone’s Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata c1295-1300, which Whiteley first encountered in 1960 during a visit to the Louvre in Paris.
However, while acknowledging the importance of the Whiteley creation, Cameron Menzies is equally enthusiastic about many aspects of the auction’s ANZ collection, especially the fact that there are seven Arthur Boyd (1920-1999) paintings in the sale including four from his Shoalhaven series – the main two being Shoalhaven Fishing c1983 (Lot 4 ) and Men in a Boat, Shoalhaven River c1981 (Lot 39 ).
“The bank now wishes to sell some of its blue-chip stock and, in line with its strategy to diversify, funds raised from the sale will go towards the acquisition of contemporary Australian, New Zealand and Pacifika art,” he said.
Two Hans Heysen (1877-1968) watercolour paintings – Rural Scene with Bullock Cart 1930 (Lot 22 ) and Sheep by a Stream 1930 (Lot 23 ) – Menzies believes will be of particular interest to the South Australian art fraternity.
“Both were commissioned by South Australian Railways as a gift for William A. Webb (1878-1936) who was its Commissioner from 1922-1930,” he said.
Apparently, according to his Australian obituary, Webb was a “big man with big ideas” who was credited with a huge reorganisation of the State’s rail network including importing and building “big engines, big trucks and a big railway station” – the central Adelaide Railway Station.
A quintessential Australian outback scene painter, the two Heysen works have recently been repatriated after 90 years in a United States collection based in Denver, Colorado.
John Brack (1920-1999) is another Australian painter with a strong following and his painting The Club 1989 (Lot 32 ) – part of a series of works that followed his enormously successful 1987-88 NGV retrospective – also is a strong auction attraction.
International auction highlights include After Botticelli 1992-93 (Lot 36 ) by the late American artist Brice Marden (1938-2023), renowned for his dynamic and expressive use of line in painted and printed form and hailed as one of a handful of living artists sufficiently established to be considered a part of art history.
Other well-known Australian artists include Ben Quilty with Aftermath 2018 (Lot 74 ), Emily Kame Kngwarreye (c1910-1996) My Anooralya Story 1992 (Lot 18 ) and Sally Gabori (c1924-2015) Dibirdibi Country 2006 (Lot 16 ).