Signed lower left; bears inscription on the reverse 'Incident at Avignon April 1948, Painted in London'
Savill Galleries, Melbourne (label on the reverse)
Private collection, Perth; purchased from the above
James Gleeson & Robert Klippel, London Gallery, London, 9 November - 4 December 1948, cat. 8
James Gleeson, Exhibition of Paintings, The Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 14-26 June 1950, cat. 18
Australian Paintings: Traditional, Modern and Contemporary Summer 2003, Savill Galleries, Melbourne, 14 February - 16 March, Sydney, 18 February - 16 March, Perth, 7 February - 4 March, cat. 52
As Gleeson's biographer Renée Free relates, Gleeson lived and worked overseas for the first time from 1947 to 1949. 'Based in London, he visited France and Holland, and spent three months in Italy, which transformed his ideas and his art. The opposites - the Classical Mediterranean world and the dark northern fantasy world, the persona and shadow of art - are shortly to be exchanged as influences.' 1
The haunting and dreamlike Incident in Avignon was shown in his joint exhibition with Robert Klippel in London, along with the much larger Agony in the Garden (University of Sydney Collection). They mark the end of his sequence of 'Garden Paintings'. In Dr Free's words, the paintings in this series are 'sad visions of the separation of man and woman, or ego and anima'. 2 In both compositions the beautiful young woman in her caul like wrapping is separated from the male figure. Here she is enfolded in a zoomorphic, somewhat jellyfish like apparition - almost as a pearl within an oyster - lying before the great medieval fortress, the Palace of the Popes, at Avignon.
In southern Europe, surrounded by the Classical heritage, Gleeson found entirely new inspirations for his Surrealism: 'Man was centre stage - the measure of all things, as Plato wrote... In this Classical or Neo-Platonic world view, man was created in the image of God, or the gods were conceived in the image of man and the notion of human perfectibility, in the sense that a human being can become god-like, is implicit'. 3
1. Free, R., James Gleeson, Images from the Shadows, Craftsman House, Sydney, rev. edn 1996, p, 28
2. Op. cit., p. 26.
3. Interview, op. cit., pp. 42-43.
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