#Nolan 100

No.6 Dog and Duck - Jane Clark


No.6 Dog and Duck - Jane Clark

"I didn’t include Dog and Duck Hotel in Sidney Nolan’s 70th birthday retrospective exhibition. It was hanging in his sitting room at The Rodd and he didn’t seem keen when I broached the possibility of borrowing it for an eight-month Australian tour.

It seemed so firmly and yet ironically ensconced: inversely emblematic of his transplantation from a working class, urban, colonial upbringing to that 17th-century manor farm in England’s green and pleasant land.  A painting of a wide-verandahed building set mirage-like against sunbaked earth, with a name somehow redolent of an English duckhunter’s cosy pub. Hanging on a half-timbered wall above chintz-upholstered sofas and Lady Nolan serving tea.

Anyway, the Art Gallery of New South Wales had already agreed to lend their Pretty Polly Mine, painted the same year, the first acquisition of Nolan’s work by any public gallery; from the same 1949 series of far north Queensland outback paintings of which reviewer Harry Tatlock Miller had written, ‘I can remember no other exhibition by a contemporary Australian which, with such seemingly disarming innocence of eye and hand, reveals so much individuality of vision… Creatures of the air, he gaily tells us, flew gaudily, unreal, over desert, swamp, rock and river, … a land which existed at the dawn of history’.1 I’d first seen Dog and Duck on a Qantas airways in-flight menu brought home by my grandparents. Unforgettable. Even in reproduction, as Tatlock Miller put it so well, ‘These pictures remain in the mind persistently flavouring the following hours’.

Nolan had written to fellow artist Albert Tucker from North Queensland in 1947 about finding a surprisingly old-fashioned Englishness in the ‘lovely old hotels & shops that have been the same for seventy years’; so far distant even from Melbourne, let alone England. And yet, joining a Royal Geographical Society expedition to the Cape York Peninsula and out west to the Carnarvon Range, he described ‘feeling perhaps that a large part of the energy of Australia is contained there’.2 Apparently he did meet a mine manager who fed the local parrots. Who knows if he really found a hotel called ‘Dog and Duck’. No duck ever flew like this one, dangling in the sky. And the small eponymous dog is scarcely there.

We do know that the painting was made from memory. Nolan’s habit was to imprint visually almost without seeming to look, storing images indelibly in his imagination for the future; sometimes taking photographs; often writing short encapsulations in notebooks as an aide-mémoire. Back in Sydney, he worked through much of 1948 painting shopfronts, farm machinery, abandoned and working mines, prospectors, explorers, anthills, and seemingly empty desertscapes, as well as birds and old hotels. He painted quickly, here using glossy Ripolin enamel for the clear blue sky (Picasso had called it ‘healthy paint’) and leaving the reddish brown hardboard bare for much of the lower part of the composition: ‘a minimum of matter to give the maximum effect in the manner of a lyric poet’, as the Sydney Morning Herald’s art critic wrote of his technique.3

The 1949 exhibition sold well. Sir Kenneth Clark bought Little Dog Mine: as Slade Professor of Fine Arts at Oxford and former director of the London National Gallery, he was very influential and arguably launched Nolan’s international career. Dog and Duck Hotel went to the Sydney collector Mervyn Horton, later founding editor of Art and Australia. It passed next, in 1972, for the then Australian-record price of $60,000 to Alistair McAlpine who later sold it back to Sidney.

Having seen the painting ‘for real’ at The Rodd, I was rather sad, though greatly honoured, to oversee its sale in 2001 as part of The Estate of Sir Sidney Nolan when I was Deputy Chairman at Sotheby’s in Melbourne: the highest-priced lot in the auction. But we met again, picture and I. When I came to work for Mona, in Tasmania — in 2007, before the museum was built — Dog and Duck Hotel had changed hands again and was owned my new boss, David Walsh. It amuses, intrigues, impresses, and inspires me every time I look."

1. The Sun, Sydney, 8 March 1949.

2. 6 and 23 November 1947, quoted in Patrick McCaughey, Bert & Ned: The correspondence of Albert Tucker and Sidney Nolan, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 2006, pp. 67, 71.

3. Paul Haefliger, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 December 1949.

Jane Clark is the Senior Research Curator at Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania, Australia.

Sidney Nolan, Dog and Duck Hotel, 1948, Enamel paint on hardboard, 91.5 x 122 cm, Collection: MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), Hobart, Tasmania, Australia  

© 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