oil on composition board
91.5. x 91.5 cm
signed and dated lower right: Nolan. / 6 Oct 69
signed and inscribed with title verso: Nolan / Landscape
bears inscription verso: Geoff Ryan / original / Dec 99
bears inscription verso: Public Flow Space.
Tony Reichardt, London
Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 4 November 1987, lot 1163
Private collection, Sydney
Sotheby’s, Melbourne, 4 May 2004, lot 44
Gould collection, Melbourne
Possibly: Sidney Nolan: Recent paintings, Skinner Galleries, Perth, 3 February 1970, cats 2, 4, or 5 (‘Landscape 1969’)
Sidney Nolan: Myth and Country, Gould Galleries, Melbourne, 9 November – 4 December 2005, cat. 30 (illus. in exhibition catalogue)
In 1964, the artist Fred Williams was given the task of cleaning Sidney Nolan’s celebrated ‘Ned Kelly’ series of paintings before their first exhibition overseas. Williams is on record as saying that he had never truly appreciated Nolan’s skill in depicting the Australian landscape until he studied the backgrounds in these figure-dominated scenes. From his earliest days in the Wimmera, where his use of sharply titled horizons heralded a completely new way of conveying the endless space of rural Australia, Nolan’s deft touch delivered a startling array of views of his homeland over his extensive career. Landscape, 1969 is from a small body of works painted after his completion of such landmark paintings as the multi-panelled River Bend, 1964 – 65 and Desert Storm, 1966 – 67. Following the mud and rain streaked approach of the former, and the scraped, turbulent vistas of the latter, Landscape, 1969 comes as an almost gentle relief, a heated outback scene but one tinged with gentle blushes of purple-crimson and viridian green. It is a reminder that Australia’s otherwise harsh inland often reveals unexpected surprises such as waterholes at the base of rugged, iron-rich scarps or Spring-time fields of wildflowers extending to the horizon.
Two years prior, Nolan had briefly returned to Australia as a result of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney mounting his first-ever Australian Retrospective (a prior one had been held in 1957 at London’s influential Whitechapel Gallery). Such was the positive public and critical reception to the Sydney exhibition that Nolan decided to return the next year for an extended stay. Notably, he commenced this sojourn in Western Australia with an exhibition at the Skinner Galleries as part of that year’s Festival of Perth. Rose Skinner had been the artist’s major champion in that city ever since she had held his first exhibition there in 1962, a sell-out display of Leda and Swan where she had used her considerable influence to have HRH Duke of Edinburgh open the exhibition whilst he was there for the Commonwealth Games. Nolan often painted works in serial form, contemplating ideas and imagery for some time before unleashing his vision in torrents of energy during sustained stints in the studio; and this particular Landscape is almost certainly one of three at this size shown by Skinner Galleries in the artist’s subsequent exhibition there in 1970, alongside another group of smaller scale works with the same title.1 As the catalogue essay’s author Patrick Hutchings noted ‘(p)aint becomes the presence of sand, stone outcrop and scrub. Not the scale simply, but the texture, the light and the haunting space.’2 The benefits of Nolan’s, by now, thirty-year career are fully evident in Landscape which is distinguished by the vigorous passage of turps-laden oil paint which mimics the translucence and possibility he originally encountered through his use of liquid polyvinyl acetate in the late 1950s. Painted wet-on-wet, Nolan alternates between sweeping strokes in the sky to short, sharp stabs in the foreground, exclamations of artistic intent as he marks his creative journey.
1. The exhibition also included Desert Storm, 1966 – 67 which was immediately purchased by the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.
2. Hutchings, P. A., ‘Introduction’, Sidney Nolan: recent paintings, Skinner Galleries, Perth, 1970