The Mooche, 1968 signed, dated and inscribed 'The Mooche / Dick Watkins / 68' verso synthetic polymer paint (PVA) and oil on canvas 167.5 x 167.5cm (65 15/16 x 65 15/16in).
PROVENANCE: Purchased from Watters Gallery, Sydney, November 1988 On loan to the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne from 2001-2006
EXHIBITED: The Field, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 21 August - 28 September 1968, cat. no. 72 The Caddy Collection, Watters Gallery, Sydney, 8-26 November 1988, cat. no. 42 Central Street 1966 - 1969, Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney, 5 January - 13 February 1991, cat. no. 15 Dick Watkins in Context, curated by Barbara Dowse, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 15 January - 15 July 1993 I Had a Dream, Australian Art in the 1960s, curated by Jennifer Phipps, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 25 April - 16 June, 1997 The Laverty Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 20 June - 23 August 1998 Fieldwork: Australian Art 1968 - 2002, curated by Jason Smith and Charles Green, opening exhibition, Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria: Australian Art at Federation Square, Melbourne, 28 October 2002 - 16 February 2003, cat. no. 03.11 The Colin and Elizabeth Laverty collection - a selection of Indigenous and non-Indigenous art works, Geelong Gallery, Geelong, 18 February - 15 April 2012
LITERATURE: The Field, exh. cat., National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1968, cat. no. 72, p.79 (illus.) Daniel Thomas and Mervyn Horton, Present Day Art in Australia, Ure Smith, 1969, p.229 (illus.) James Gleeson, Modern Painters 1931 - 1970, Lansdowne, 1971, pl. 85, p.78 (illus.) The Caddy Collection, exh. cat., Watters Gallery, Sydney, 1988, cat. no. 42, p.48 & 59 (illus.) Elwyn Lynn, 'A Hard Edged Wheel Turns', Weekend Australian, 12-13 January 1991 Dick Watkins in Context, exh. cat., National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1993, p.13 (illus.) I Had a Dream, Australian Art in the 1960s, exh. cat., National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1997, p.61 (illus.) The Laverty Collection, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 1998, p.2 (illus.) Jeremy Eccles, 'The Pleasure Principle', State of the Arts, August - November 1998, p.78 (illus.) Gabriella Coslovich, 'Fertile fields', The Age, 23 November 2002 Jason Smith & Charles Green, Fieldwork: Australian Art 1968 - 2002, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2002, cat. no. 03.11, p.22, p.145 & 153 (illus.) Lesley Harding & Sue Cramer, Cubism & Australian Art, co-published by Heide and the Miegunyah imprint of Melbourne University Publishing, 2009, p.183 (illus.)
Watkins is an inventive and restless painter, untroubled with stylistic changes regardless of perceptions of inconsistency in fact, this became the characteristic of his brilliance. The Mooche was exhibited in The Field exhibition, organised to coincide with the opening of the National Gallery of Victoria's new building, in 1968. It's one of a few 20th century exhibitions that changed the way in which Australia thought about the art of its time. Mainly young artists were included, most with a keen interest in hard-edge, colour-ﬁeld abstraction each self-evidently international in their outlook. Australia's so-called Antipodean Vision was of no interest to this new generation. In 1968 the celebrated American critic, Clement Greenberg, visited Australia; he asserted that Watkins was Australia's ﬁnest painter. In keeping with Greenberg's maxim that all we need to know is contained within the work itself, that the viewer's aesthetic experience is heightened when external references are discarded, The Mooche is testament to this theoretical stance. This was new to Australia whose art had been conspicuously self-referencing with mythical and other narratives, or the ﬁnal echoes of the School of Paris. That the formal qualities of art, of picture making, could resonate with a conﬁdent independence marks The Mooche as an important painting which effortlessly abandoned local introspection and began to engage internationally.
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