Paradise Garden, 1971

Sidney Nolan, Paradise Garden: paintings, poems and drawings, introduction by Robert Melville, 1971, 114pp, published by R. Alistair McAlpine Publishing Ltd.

David Oliver is an Australian artist specialising in interiors, travel, portrait and fashion. He is the author of 'Paint & Paper in Decoration' which was shortlisted 2008 RIBA Book Awards. He founded Paint & Paper Library in 1995 with Sophie Grattan-Bellew and worked for twenty years as Managing & Creative Director. He continues to design David Oliver Fabric & Wallpaper lines with Dara Caponigro, Creative Director of F.Schumacher Inc. New York.

“In 1993 I had a small studio where I painted as an artist in the basement of a gallery in Cork St, Mayfair, London, opposite Alan Cristea’s print gallery. One day there was a terrible flood and Alan came across and gave me a pile of books that were all water damaged - I think because I am Australian and he thought I would like them. There were more than 30 copies of Paradise Garden by Sidney Nolan.
Published in 1971 by Alistair McAlpine, Paradise Garden was the most beautiful book full of paintings, poems and ‘pictographs’ on transparent pages. In his introduction, Robert Melville says “It should be called a bestiary of wild flowers, for these specimens are the gorgons…griffons…phoenixes of the plant world.” The poems concern a painter and a female patron – “a beautiful and gracious destructive force… a necessary evil” .
The book is, in my view, still one of the most beautiful and emotive works of art that does not fail to move my heartstrings as the reader today.
Bunch of wild flowers
The word itself
was sharp enough
I felt my arm cut off,
but gathered
a posy,
losing the
other arm
on giving it.
Many years later, in 2008, I stayed with McAlpine in Puglia, Italy and we discussed the book and Sidney at great length. Alistair recalled many wonderful stories about dinner with Sidney at the Wolesley in Piccadilly and elsewhere. He certainly knew Nolan very well as a patron, publisher and close friend. I recently bought my own olive oil estate in Puglia and it is still a great privilege to visit Alistair’s widow Athena there and see so many of Sidney’s original works hanging the length of the library.”

Evening bonfire
Faces of love are burning
and many shining toys
surrender their sheen
no more art
so no more shame,
and as for Troy
better dead
than quick with such a queen.

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