The hillside

Born Linlithgow, Scotland 1890, arrived Australia 1910, died Melbourne 1974


William ‘Jock’ Frater was an important Australian modernist, known for his colourful landscape paintings and outspoken views challenging the role of art as an imitation of nature. At the Glasgow School of Art where he first studied, Frater became interested in the principles of French impressionism and Glasgow colourism. After arriving in Melbourne in 1910, he attended life classes at the Victorian Artists Society, and became associated with Max Meldrum and his tonal theories.

For the next fifteen years his practice was dominated by portrait and figure painting, as well as stained glass (which was recognised for its design and craftsmanship). He became increasingly interested in modernism, simplifying forms and experimenting with colour and by 1930 the influence of Paul Cézanne was clearly evident. From 1940 his focus became the landscape, painting the Victorian coast and mining towns and later, central Australia and northern Queensland.

Frater took a teaching position at the School of Modern Art, run by Arnold Shore and George Bell, where he contributed to the development of modernism in Victoria. Frater exhibited with the Twenty Melbourne Painters from the late 1920s, the Melbourne Contemporary Group in the 1930s, and annually with the Victoria Artists Society, of which he was president (1964–74).

A retrospective of his work was held at the National Gallery of Victoria (1966). His work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, most major state galleries, and many regional and university galleries.