#Nolan 100

No.39 Bathers - Lesley Harding


No.39  Bathers - Lesley Harding

Born and raised in Melbourne’s bayside suburb of St Kilda, Sidney Nolan often drew on familiar subjects and motifs such as the local swimming baths, foreshore, pier and eponymous fairground, Luna Park, as the subjects for his artistic investigations.

Bathers, one of several memory-based works on this otherwise classical theme, captures the heat, haze and spirit of the Australian summer in typically laconic style.

The flattened picture plane and disjunctive scale of Bathers pays homage to the work of cubist and purist painter Fernand Léger. This is most obvious in the abbreviated details of the picture: the black outlines, tricolour towels and flag, and the exaggerated stripes of the slatted platform. Similarly the reductive spatial compositions of Mondrian can be found in the painting’s structure; take the figures away and the pier, decking, sea and sky become a constructive geometric abstraction in panes of barely modulated colour. However Nolan had already been experimenting with perspective and form in his paintings of the Wimmera district, with which Bathers chronologically coincides.

In 1942 he abandoned the abstract idiom he had hitherto pursued, and turned his attention to the stories and distinctive aesthetic of his Australian context. He had been conscripted into the army in April and stationed in north-western Victoria’s vast wheat belt. With ample time to paint, a period of great advancement in his work commenced—he adapted and expanded upon recent developments in international modernism and applied them to the local setting. It has been said that Nolan’s paintings from this time helped transform the way Australians envisaged their native land.

Taking as his subject the shimmering golden plains of his immediate environment, Nolan shunned conventional perspective and introduced contiguous flat areas in the space of his pictures—tilting the horizontal surfaces vertically and setting the horizon line high. He wrote to his Melbourne art benefactor Sunday Reed of his revelations, ‘it came simply that if you imagined the land going vertically into the sky it would work’.

Such devices could be neatly adapted to the modern exigencies of urban architecture and life as well, and Nolan soon elaborated on this emblematic style of expression using the St Kilda images from his childhood. By exploiting the tension between flat and modelled shapes, and reducing his images to their essential forms, Nolan sought to relieve art from the decorative or ornamental, and get to the very heart of things—revealing in his own inimitable way what is fundamental or even universal about the everyday."

Lesley Harding is curator at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Australia

Sidney Nolan, Bathers, 1943, enamel on canvas, 64 x 76.5 cm, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, Bequest of John and Sunday Reed 1982, © The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust

No.1 - Four Abstracts - Alexander Downer

No.2 - Self Portrait - Angus Trumble

No.3 - Arabian Tree - Kendrah Morgan

No.4 Riverbend I - Francine Stock

No.5 - Desert - Andrew Logan

No.6 Dog and Duck - Jane Clark

No.7 Vivisector - Tim Abdallah

No.8 In the Cave - Rebecca Daniels

No.9 Young Soldier - Clare Woods

No.10 Ned Kelly - Shaun Gladwell

No.11 Bird - Deborah Ely

No. 12 Hare in Trap - Nicholas Usherwood

No.13 Untitled (Catani Arch, St Kilda) - David Rainey

No.14 Death of a Poet - Simon Martin

No.15 Study for Samson et Dalila - Elijah Moshinsky

No.16 Rimbaud at Harar - Edmund Capon AM OBE

No.17 Quilting the Armour - Jackie Haliday

No.18 Snake - David Walsh

No.19 Angel and the Tree - Dr Nicky McWilliam

No.20 Brian the Stockman at Wave Hill Mounting a Dead Horse - Damian Smith

No.21 Steve Hart Dressed as a Girl -Jennifer Higgie

No.22 Women and Billabong - Anthony Plant

No.23 Agricultural Hotel - Philip Mead

No.24 Policeman in a Wombat Hole - Kay Whitney

No.25 Peter Grimes - David Lipsey

No.26 Self Portrait in Youth - Barry Pearce & Duncan Fallowell

No.27 Riverbend I - Ian Dungavell

No.28 Drowned Soldier at Anzac as Icarus - Paul Gough

No.29 Thames - John Tooley

No.30 Girl - Amelda Langslow

No.31 Ned Kelly and Policeman - Daniel Crawshaw

No.32 Tarred and Feathered - Nick Cave

No.33 Self Portrait - Denise Mimmocchi

No.34 Peter Grimes's Apprentice - George Vass

No.35 The Emu Hunt - Roger Law

No.36 Luna Park - Paula Dredge

No.37 Rose in Coffee Pot - Anthony Collier

No.38 The Cardplayers - Nevin Jayawardena

No.39 Bathers - Lesley Harding

No.40 Aboriginal Girl - Jennie Milne

No.41 Pretty Polly Mine - Michael Brand

No 42. Roses in a Merric Boyd Vase - Jack Galloway

No 43. Brett Whiteley - Jonathan Watkins

No 44. Island - Nick Yelverton

No 45. Luna Park - Bill Granger

No 46. Face of the Damned - Kate McMillan

No 47. Central Australia - Leanne Santoro

No 48. Crane - Brian Adams

No 49. Myself - Simon Mundy

No 50. Going to Work, Rising Sun Hotel, 1948 - David Ferry

No 51. Figure at Harar - Andrew Turley

No 52, Greek Figures - Simon Pierse

No 53. Randolph Stow - Suzanne Falkiner

No 54. Landscape No.27 (Convalescence) - Suzanne Falkiner

No 55. Self portrait - Oliver McCall

No 56. McMurdo Sound - Mike Clements

No 57. Faun, Woman, Rider, Horse - Mark Fraser

No 58. Season in Hell (Benjamin Britten) - Anne Bean

No 59. The Slip - Humphrey Ocean

No 60. Central Australia - Chris Drury

No 61. Riverbend - Christina Slade

No 62. Head - Celia Johnson

No 63. Myth Rider - Desmond Browne

No 64. Stockman - Bridget McDonnell

No 65. Untitled (flower) - Roma Piotrowska

No 66. Chinese Landscape - Celia Perceval

No 67. Untitled - Des Hughes

No 68. Crucifixion - Rod Bugg

No 69. Icebergs - Laurence Hall

No 70. Bather in a Lily Pool - Amanda Fitzwilliams

No 71. Breaks like the Atlantic Ocean on my head - Michael Berkeley

No 72. Carcase in Swamp - Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva

No 73. Ern Malley - Isabella Boorman

No 74. Mrs Reardon at Glenrowan - Adrian Kelly

No 75. Landscape Carnarvon Range, Queensland - Catherine Noske

No 76. Abraham and Isaac - Sarah Bardwell

No 77. Rosa Mutabilis - Catherine Hunter

No 78. Artist drawing nude - Victoria Lynn

No 79. Boy and the moon - Natalie Wilson

NO 80. Explorer and Township - Helen Idle

No 81. All Tastes Like Dust in the Mouth... - Carolyn Leder

No 82. Young Boy Who Was Good at Latin - Roxy Shaw

No 83. Mrs Fraser - Anne Carter

No 84. Paradise Garden - David Oliver

No 85. Leda and the Swan - Marilyn Sweet

No 86. Burke and Wills at the Gulf - Jenny Watson

No 87. Dream of the latrine sitter - Ryan Johnston

No 88. Footballer - Gerard Vaughan

NO 89. Sketch for Ned Kelly - Amanda Fuller

NO 90. Woman in Lagoon - Jinx Nolan

No 91. Cherries in a bowl - Peter Blake

No 92. Fountain - Heywood Hill

No 93. Artist and painting - Charles Nodrum

No 94. Death of Constable Scanlon - Anita Taylor

No 95. Untitled (abstract) - David Jaffe

No 96. Digital image - Joe Studholme

No 97. Seated figure and bird - Sally Aitken

No 98. Burke and Wills expedition 'Gray sick' - Gary Sangster

No 99. Kangaroo at Ayers Rock - Pru and Anthony Napolitano

No 100. The Galaxy - Elizabeth Langslow