#Nolan 100

No 95. Untitled (abstract) - David Jaffe


No 95. Untitled (abstract) - David Jaffe

Untitled (Abstract), c.1939 by Nolan is strange in an Australian context because of its formal grid which is truly abstract and could well sit beside works by Mondrian or his British host Ben Nicholson. In fact it was an aberration in his early work.

Nolan then developed into an essentially figurative landscape art, in the tradition of the then famous American outback painter Thomas Hart Benton, who had just made the cover of Time Magazine.

When writing his own introduction to his 1950 Leicester Galleries show, Russell Drysdale noted that the battle between the Academics and the Modernists was hard fought. A year later Nolan, a self-proclaimed fellow ‘Modernist' followed Drysdale exhibiting in another London gallery (Redfern 1951) a pioneering outback show.

To our eyes they were both painting topographic landscapes with only a passing reference to the flattening of space, which might be read as an affiliation to Surrealism. Cubist Picasso, who was included in the 1949 Herald art show that toured Melbourne and Sydney, had left no impact on either artist. Instead Benton’s vocabulary of abandoned farm machinery, windmills and dead cows skulls is pervasive in Nolan's 'Back of Beyond' drawings of 1954, now on show in the British Museum.

We can only understand Nolan and Drysdale’s perceptions by reading books like Lionel Lindsey’s ‘Addled Art’ (1946), according to which art stops abruptly with Cezanne and Van Gogh; for Lindsey Cubism, Surrealism and Matisse are damned.

It is only with the great late canvasses of the 1980s that Nolan returns to gestural forms on a flat picture plane and so finally rejoins the battle ground with his modernist heroes, which he had precociously touched on in his youth with ‘Abstract’, the Luna Park paintings, not to mention his early Boy and the Moon c.1939 which so enraged the Melbourne critics. Ironically Nolan pointed to Boy and the Moon when the next generation, including Brett Whiteley who, on reaching London in 1965, attacked him for not being flat enough. Perhaps this challenge from Whiteley, the upstart Sydney painter, triggered Nolan’s vast spray gun responses to paint the gulf country at the Top End of Australia and similar Chinese landscapes, which now look so good in Australia House in London.”

David Jaffe, former curator, National Gallery of Australia, curator of paintings for the J. Paul Getty Museum California, and Senior Curator, London National Gallery. Specialist on Italian Renaissance art and Rubens.

Sidney Nolan: Back of Beyond drawings, 24 November 2017 - 11 January 2018, British Museum, Room 90a, admission free. http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/sidney_nolan_centenary.aspx

Sidney Nolan, Untitled (Abstract), c1939, oil on blotting paper, 28.4 x 44.6cm. © Sidney Nolan Trust.

Sidney Nolan, Abstract, 1986, enamel spray on canvas, 305 x 457cm, Collection of the Sidney Nolan Trust, © 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