Australia 1900-1975

Still life – daffodils, 1960s
oil on composition board
40.0 x 50.0 cm
inscribed lower right: Rehfisch

Australian and European paintings, prints, and drawings, Lawsons, Sydney, 15 September 1987, lot 114

Throughout her life Alison Rehfisch was excited by colour. In 1975 she was recorded as saying, I think colour is the most important thing, colour and design and dimension in a painting. You can’t decry the skeleton of art, it must have drawing, design and colour whatever it is, whatever your outlook is….’. Undoubtedly the large number of flower paintings she produced reflected this interest and the way in which they allowed her to choose her subjects for their purity of colour. Still life – daffodils is an excellent example of this. Two colours of yellow for the daffodils, and a bright pinkish red for the saxifrage, contrast with white daisies and freezias. The rest of the painting helps frame these bright, almost pure colours. The vase, a dull red, the green glass bottle and a small bowl with a white interior sit on a pinkish cloth on a tilted table-top. A dull red curtain or window frame appears to contain the picture on both sides. The flowers, especially the clear yellow and white, are contrasted with a dull greenish background, perhaps a window onto the outdoors.

Alison Rehfisch studied art at the Julian Ashton’s Art School in Sydney in 1917-1919, and then with Dattilo Rubbo from about 1925 to 1929. In 1933, with the painter George Duncan, Rehfisch left Australia for London where she studied at the Grosvenor School of Art until 1939. In Europe paintings by Chagall introduced her to elements of fantasy which appealed to her long-standing interest in mysticism and spiritualism.

At the outbreak of World War 2, Rehfisch and Duncan returned to Sydney and renewed friendships with artists such as Roland Wakelin whose interest in colour and light complemented their own. They were a very close couple in art and life and devoted members of the Contemporary Group and the Contemporary Art Society of Australia. In 1945 Rehfisch’s work was included in the Australian Women Painters exhibition in Sydney. Her still life paintings, almost always flowers, had a great following. While her interest in mysticism and spiritualism undoubtedly influenced her choice of subjects and the strong colours of her paintings, the pictures appeal rests in its warmth and harmony.

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