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William Fletcher, Banksia

William Fletcher, Banksia

The Artist

According to the William Fletcher foundation website, William Fletcher was born at Bellbird, in the Hunter Valley, on 27 October 1924. Leaving the town at the age of 18 to join the Royal Australian Navy, he saw active service in the Pacific for four years until his discharge in 1946. He settled in a Stanley Street terrace (East Sydney) and studied at East Sydney Technical College and the Julian Ashton Art School between 1946 and 1952. He painted inner-city streetscapes, but also floral studies, which sold well in the Eastern Suburbs boutiques.

In 1954 Fletcher moved to Pittwater, where he lived a reclusive life for the rest of his short life. Initially he stayed at the Barrenjoey lighthouse and began painting Australian wildflowers. Later he moved to the Pittwater side of Newport. For one year, 1961, he travelled with Sorlie’s tent show, sketching circus scenes.

In 1965 the house and studio at Church Point became his permanent home, from which he made several sketching trips to the bush around Sydney, the Snowy Mountains, and to Central Australia to sketch the wildflowers.

In 1977 Fletcher spent four months in England and Europe, including a tour of Greece. In 1978 he began a series of silkscreen prints, including wildfowers, circus scenes and still life.

William Fletcher died suddenly of an asthma attack at his Church Point (Sydney) home, on 22 January 1983. Fletcher’s estate contained many previously unexhibited paintings and drawings.

John Brackenreg OBE, then director of Artarmon Galleries, who was a supporter of the artist during Fletcher’s last and most productive years, provided a foreword to the study of the artist which was written and published by Trevor Andersen in 1983. Brackenreg commented that Fletcher’s subjects were ‘beautifully drawn and rendered with infinite patience and love’.

Lloyd Rees, who visited an exhibition of Fletcher’s work at Artarmon Galleries, remarked that the apparent naturalism of the works was deceptive, for Fletcher’s painting was ‘an abstraction from nature and not a mere imitation of it’.

Elwyn Lynn (Art and Australia, vol 21 no. 4, June 1984), referred to Fletcher’s mysterious and haunting use of colour and the imaginative way in which he mingled precision in treatment of species with ‘baroque accumulations’ of flora.

Banksia by William Fletcher

The Work of Art

Banksia is a beautiful study of one of the most iconic species of plant in Australia painted gouache onto paper. To some degree the composition harkens to the observation by Lloyd Rees that it is not a straight forward study but presents the subject in an abstract way. The work was created and acquired in 1974 having been exhibited in the 'New Music Society Exhibition'.Similar works of art show subjects in a varied manner of display. Some are, like Banksia, on rather non-descript backgrounds. Others are set into landscape scenery.  Fletcher was just as adept at still life compositions as well as landscapes and floral studies.

Fire Wheel Tree by William Fletcher

Although this is the only work of art by William Fletcher in the University's Art Collection, there are other examples of Australian wildlife flora and fauna studies in the collection worth exploring.


William Fletcher biography: