Australia 1927 – Australia 1982
oil on canvas
canvas 182.0 (h) x 121.8 (w) cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra Gift of an anonymous donor 1999 Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© estate of Fred Williams
Australian author, Murray Bail, came to known Williams when they served together on the Council of the National Gallery of Australia. Sometimes during Council meetings Williams would sketch Bail’s portrait in the margins of agenda papers.
This painting was undertaken in Williams’s Tooronga Road studio in the Hawthorn. Although there is an awkwardness and tentativeness to Bail’s demeanour, it is one of Williams’s more natural portraits. There is a sense of empathy between artist and author. Bail recalls first becoming interested in Williams’s work in 1967 when he saw some of his minimal work on display at Georges Gallery in Melbourne. Williams once remarked that he had read Bail’s novel Homesickness. ‘It was interesting to me because it had no focal point, like my work.’