Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 August 2018


born 1942

oil on plywood, triptych

104.0 x 157.0 cm (including frame)

centre panel signed and dated lower right: Garry Shead 90
centre panel signed and inscribed with title verso: GARRY SHEAD/ ‘BUNDEENA’ / ICON
two (2) hinged side panels, comprising six (6) individual image panels
each signed with initials lower right: GS

$40,000 – 60,000 (3)
Sold for $51,240 (inc. BP) in Auction 55 - 29 August 2018, Sydney

Solander Gallery, Canberra
Eva Breuer Art Dealer, Sydney (label attached verso)
The Estate of Eva Breuer, Sydney
Menzies, Sydney, 26 March 2015, lot 68
Private collection, Sydney


Exhibition of New Works by Garry Shead, BMG Fine Art, Adelaide, 18 September – 10 October 1990, cat. 12
Matthew Perceval and Garry Shead: Paintings, Solander Gallery, Canberra, 29 June – 21 July 1991


Barron, S., ‘Emotive, bold response’, The Canberra Times, Canberra, 13 June 1992, p. 39 (illus.)

Catalogue text

Two simple nudes, a man and a woman, each standing unabashed within loosely sketched frames, guard the outer panels of this major work Bundeena Icon, 1990. In appropriating the figures of Adam and Eve from the Van Eyck Ghent altarpiece, a masterwork of the Flemish Renaissance, Garry Shead alludes to the allegorical nature of the tableaux full of personal metaphor hidden within. Shead is one of the few contemporary Australian artists to explicitly use familial relationships within his paintings, and here, the central female figure bears a striking physical resemblance to his wife, Judit. Created at a time of hitherto unparalleled peace and harmonious family life, it was in this painting that the artist distilled his personal delight in the landscape and companionship of Judit and their new baby daughter, Lilla. A standout painting in both exhibitions in Adelaide and Canberra, this triptych was described in a newspaper review at the time as a ‘personal affirmation of life’.1

Fully opened, the Bundeena Icon is a lyrical and joyous celebration of coupledom and nurturing of new life. Its panels contain allegories of the Mother and Child, vignettes expressing the couple’s unbridled erotic connection, and landscapes illustrating the bucolic serenity of their immediate natural environment – the town of Bundeena on Sydney’s South Coast. This painting transposes Shead’s intimate and personal mythology on to traditional scenes of Christian iconography, including the Annunciation scene (complete with a whimsical flying cherub) in the upper left. The sentimental and metaphorical quality of Shead’s Icon is reminiscent of the works of French painter Marc Chagall, a connection further emphasised by the soft, warm palette they shared.

The Romantic magical realism of Shead’s narrative double portraits expresses a sense of matrimonial bliss coupled with a profound connection to, and appreciation of, the Australian landscape. The physical fecundity of the couple is reflected in the hazy, lush landscape of the Royal National Park. In the upper right-hand panel, the lovers are so inextricably intertwined that their bodies create two halves of a complete sphere, surrounded by native angophoras and Gymea lilies. Shead repeated the imagery of these side panels in separate works also exhibited at BMG Fine Art and Solander Gallery when this work was first shown, for example Bushfire, Gymea Lily, Currawong and Angophora.

Shead, as a story-teller artist, had been searching for close to a decade for a way to express traditional western myths within an Australian context. As noted by Sasha Grishin, the artist’s faithful observation of the flora and fauna within these Bundeena paintings enabled the creation of his personal Australian iconography, forming the bedrock for the iconic D.H. Lawrence and Royal Suite paintings that would follow.2

1. Barron, S., ‘Emotive, bold response’, The Canberra Times, 13 June 1992, p. 39
2. Grishin, S., Garry Shead and The Erotic Muse, Craftsman House, Sydney, 2001, p. 89