Works on Paper: A Window Into an Artist’s Practice

Works on paper encompass a diverse range of media, from sketches, collage, watercolour, gouache, pencil and ink, and they offer a unique glimpse into an artist’s practice, from a fully finished, refined work to a quick sketch which forms the early stages of development of a larger idea or way of thinking.

Here are three of my personal favourite works on paper that have passed through Leonard Joel in 2020 so far:

1. ARTHUR STREETON (1867-1943)

Amiens 1918
watercolour on paper
Estimate $5,000-7,000
Sold for $9,610


The subject of this lovely watercolour is Amiens, a city in the North of France. One of our greatest Australian landscape painters, Arthur Streeton, was appointed as an official war artist in 1918, the year that this work was created. In just over six months he produced many drawings and watercolour studies on site, and then completed the works in his studio back in London.

The subject of this work is the cathedral of Amiens, and during the First World War, Amiens was a central communication and administrative centre as there were many railways and roads that passed through it. It became a main objective of the German forces to capture the city and it was the Australian defence of Villers-Bretonneux that prevented any further advance, becoming a safe base for the Allies. This work may be an earlier study of a larger oil painting created by the artist titled Amiens Cathedral in 1918 which is held in the Australian War Memorial’s collection.

This is an important work on paper as it forms part of the artist’s oeuvre, made during his time as a war artist and the depiction of this location represents an important time in history.


2. ROBERT KLIPPEL (1920-2001)

ROBERT KLIPPEL (1920-2001)
Untitled 1984
mixed media and collage on paper
Estimate $1,500-2,500
Sold for: $1,860


This is a really interesting example of Robert Klippel’s iconic mixed media works on paper, and these works continue to attract collectors in our auctions. The use of collage boomed in Australia in the late 1960s after the influence of Pop Art from American and Britain and artists such as Robert Klippel, Sidney Nolan, Sydney Ball and James Gleeson begun to experiment. This work reveals Klippel’s deep fascination with machinery, and his commitment to his own investigations into the relationship of organic and machine forms.

Collage is used by artists as both a mode of exploration and as a final product and this resolved work by Klippel demonstrates his mastery of the medium. As he moved into the last few decades of his life, his use of medium begun to diversify from large sculptures and he adopted collage and drawing.


3. LEE KRASNER (American 1908-1984)

LEE KRASNER (American 1908-1984)
Nude Study from Life, 1938
charcoal on paper
Estimate $40,000-60,000
Sold for: $52,080


This is an important work by Lee Krasner and was made after her enrolment at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts. In this work we see a young artist grappling with the ideas of Cubism and transforming them into her own style. It wasn’t until 1976 that she rediscovered her selection of charcoal figural studies made in the 1930s, and the majority of them were cut up and she used the pieces as material for a work made in the late 70s, (luckily, this one was not ‘repurposed’ into something else!). She discussed this process with the writer John Bernard Myers and Krasner stated that ‘They surprised me [the drawings] … I experienced the need not just to examine these drawings, but a peremptory desire to change them: a command as it were, to make them anew’. This work is an example of a work on paper that begun its life as a sketch, a student work that allowed the artist to explore changing ideas and visions, and then later is viewed as a pivotal phase in the artist’s oeuvre, that informed their later projection to artistic excellence.

By Ella Perrottet
Art Assistant