#Nolan 100

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

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

I have never liked counterfactual history. It seems hard enough to work out what happened without adding the infinite permutations of what did not.

Despite this, some ‘what ifs’ flit through my mind about Sidney Nolan’s life:  if Sunday Reed had encouraged him to focus on poetry instead of painting (ironic perhaps that his strongest poems, decades later, were those that mauled their relationship); if he had ended up fighting in the New Guinea jungle like his near-contemporary Clifton Pugh, instead of guarding stores in the Wimmera; or if he had remained in Australia and not moved permanently to Britain.

Another counterfactual came to light recently while researching an exhibition of Nolan’s 1955-56 Greek paintings. On the back of a small painting on paper, Faun, Woman, Rider, Horse dated 10 January 1956, Nolan wrote ‘Sculpture, black parts engraved’. The figure group, depicting a faun dragging a woman from a bolting horse, is set on a sculptural socle.

Nolan the sculptor? I couldn’t find much in the literature or auction records: Woman and bird and Gun at the Contemporary Art Society exhibitions in 1941 and ’42 are intriguing; Lovers, a small, editioned, bronze from the late 1960s or early ‘70s appears to be based on a theme inspired by Robert Lowell’s poetry; a marble reputedly owned by Lord McAlpine that also relates to Lowell’s lovers; and a well-documented group of tiny gold sculptures of heads also from that period. I would include in this list the desiccated carcasses of drought animals that Nolan re-arranged in 1952 as ephemeral sculpture for his series of photographs.

When I started looking at the back of works for other sculpture-related inscriptions I found multiple examples from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘80s and subjects including Ned Kelly, burning drought carcasses, concentration camps and Greek themes. Nolan’s notes often provide additional information about the form these sculptures would take: ‘beaten copper’; ‘perhaps in giant form as a desert monument, and perhaps as a chair, with stretched hide seat’; ‘beaten iron with woven-plaited straw shield and enamelled (or colour Perspex) flag face’; ‘Project for burning carcases monument in Central Australia/Ayers Rock? Wave Hill’; ‘make in ceramic?’; ‘carved in onyx/jasper’; ‘sketch for jewelled sculpture’; ‘marble and bronze scale 3 metres high'; ‘metal (and shining) figure of Daedalus hanging from roof – on floor metal figure of the Minotaur’.

The subject needs more research but in the meantime this counterfactual has opened my eyes to a new way of seeing Nolan’s work." 


Mark Fraser is an independent art advisor specialising in the work of Sidney Nolan. He previously worked as an art auctioneer and at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart. Current projects include two Nolan centenary exhibitions:

Sidney Nolan, Faun, Woman, Rider, Horse, 1956, mixed media on paper, 25.4 x 30.5 cm, inscribed ‘Faun, Woman, Rider, Horse, Greek theme. Myth (127), Sculpture, black parts engraved’, © Sidney Nolan Trust.  The work will be included in the Hellenic Museum exhibition opening this month in Melbourne. 

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

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