From 1952 to 1957 Williams studied in London. He painted, drew and etched the street-life of London. Williams became very familiar with modern and contemporary art. When Williams returned to Australia in 1957 landscape became his main subject.
Williams largely shed his Parisian influence in series of works on the forest theme, pursuing a dense and monumental image of the bush through a variety of media. In 1962 he began to visit the You Yangs, a group of rocky hills near Melbourne, producing the You Yangs series (1963–4; e.g. You Yangs II, Canberra, N.G.), which established his reputation in Australia. He produced gouache sketches working directly from nature, then worked these up in oil in the studio through series of oil studies, frequently also producing etchings.
In the 1970s Williams both painted further afield and enlarged his range of subject-matter, becoming particularly interested in marine subjects. His working method and palette also changed. He chose to paint dramatic landscapes instead of the bleak landscapes of the bush.
In the last eight years of his career, Williams produced more landscape series with strong themes, his last being the Pilbara series (1979–81), which remained intact as a series as it was acquired by Con-Zinc Rio Tinto Australia, the Melbourne mining company that had invited him to explore the north-west region of Australia.
J. Mollison: Fred Williams: Etchings (Sydney, 1968)
P. McCaughey: ‘Fred Williams', A. Int., xvi/9 (1972), pp. 23–9
——: Fred Williams (Sydney, 1980)
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