Fred Williams

At the Picture Framers, No.1


Not on display

Fred Williams 1927–1982
Etching and drypoint on paper
Image: 142 × 78 mm
Presented by the artist's estate 2013


At The Picture Framers, No.1 1953 is an etching and drypoint of two figures walking forward holding a large sheet of glass between them. It exists in an edition of sixteen, of which this copy is number one. This is one of over a hundred prints showing London street life that Williams made when he was an art student in London in the early to mid-1950s. He also had a part-time job in a framing shop near Mason’s Yard in St James’s.

Fred Williams arrived in London from Australia in 1951 and did not return until 1956. This was a time when Britain was increasingly receptive to French and, latterly, American art and these years offered Williams a chance to absorb contemporary European art. It was while he was living in London that he first turned to printmaking in 1953, when he studied briefly at the Central School of Arts and Crafts where the studio printer who assisted him had also worked as a printer for Walter Richard Sickert (1860–1942) (at the same time Williams worked in Robert Savage’s framing shop alongside Roger Hilton [1911–1975] and Yves Klein [1928–1962]). He was immediately prolific, creating at least 117 prints during this short two-year period, most of which exist in more than one state (one in as many as fourteen states) and exhibit his quick mastery of a whole range of printmaking techniques. At The Picture Framers, No.1 is typical of the sorts of subjects that Williams sought for his work, found in the music hall, the circus and the street, and reflects his interest in the work of Honoré Daumier (1808–1879), Sickert and the poetry of everyday life. Williams’ London prints often acted as studies for paintings and then evolved and developed to their own ends, although this relationship was not always clear cut. His friend the artist John Brack (1920–1999) explained: ‘Mostly these etchings were made from sketches drawn on the spot, and some were also the basis for paintings, though the painting is never a translated version of the print, any more than the etching is a translated drawing.’ (John Brack, ‘Introduction’, in Brack and Mollison 1968, p.6.)

Further reading
John Brack and James Mollison, Fred Williams Etchings, Woollahra 1968.
Patrick McCaughey, Fred Williams 1927–1982, London 2008.
Fred Williams, Infinite Horizons, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011.

Andrew Wilson
September 2013

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