Important Australian + International Fine Art
20 April 2011


born 1940

oil on canvas

111.5 x 198.0 cm

signed and dated verso: BOOTH 1989

$90,000 - 120,000

Deutscher Brunswick Street, Melbourne, 1990
Private collection, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne,
acquired from the above in 2004


Peter Booth: Recent Paintings, Deutscher Brunswick Street, Melbourne, 19 April – 12 May 1990, cat. 14 (illus. in accompanying exhibition catalogue)


Lindsay, R., 'Hard Rain: The Iconography of Peter Booth', in Peter Booth: Human / Nature, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003, p. 23

Catalogue text

From his auspicious debut in the groundbreaking exhibition The Field held at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1968, Peter Booth has proceeded to achieve international recognition as one of the most important and influential artists of his generation. If it was his large, monochromatic abstract works which initially attracted widespread acclaim, today it is his immensely vivid and painterly figuration for which Booth is best known. Drawing upon epic legends of the past and prophecies for an imagined future, these dramatic, poetic images of the human spirit poignantly explore fundamental human emotions and anxieties, issues of spiritual turmoil, social alienation and the devolution of civilisation. Thus framed within a world both imagined and observed, Booth's vision transcends the immediate or particular to acquire a universality comparable to the musings of his greatest artistic predecessors, including Goya, Blake and Shakespeare.

Painting (Dark Seascape) 1989 relates to the celebrated group of 'snow paintings' which Booth commenced during the winter of 1989. Preceded by a series of wet and windy landscapes, the quiet chill of the snow paintings represented a transition in Booth's oeuvre which he parallels to the journey in Milton's epic sequence of poems, Paradise Lost (1667) to Paradise Regained (1671). More specifically however, the series was inspired by the artist's re-reading of Shakespeare's Macbeth (1606) with its chilling themes of ambition and evil bearing resonance for Booth in contemporary Western greed and disregard for the planet. Accordingly, in many of these works, snow throws a white curtain of silence over the charred and blackened landscape, heralding the end of man's aggression towards his fellow man and the environment like the omen of destruction foretold by the decimation of Birnam wood in Macbeth.

Sombre and desolate, Painting (Dark Seascape) 1989 is similarly devoid of life. As Robert Lindsay observes, 'the waves, like coagulating heartbeats of an environment overladen with pollution, slowly move as sludge towards the dead sulphurous shore. It is the twilight of a planet which, as the victim of industrial progress, has seen the extinction of life with only the most adaptable and hardiest of survivors migrating to a new environment'.1 Not surprisingly perhaps, such haunting images have been interpreted as premonitions against 'The Fall', the possible downward trajectory of the present age towards barbarism and eventually extinction. Perceiving in Booth's art a loss of faith in civilisation, critics have suggested these works illustrate the 'Iron Age' described by the ancient Greek philosopher Hesiod in his didactic poem, Theogony (8th century BC) - an age of conflict, misery and crime where men respect neither their vows, nor justice, nor virtue.2

1 Lindsay, R., 'Peter Booth: One Hundred Years of Solitude - The New Ice Age' in Peter Booth: Recent Paintings, Deutscher Brunswick Street, Melbourne, 1990, n.p.
2. ibid.