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Title

Sunbaker

1937
printed 1970s


Artist

Max Dupain

Australia

22 Apr 1911 - 27 Jul 1992


About

When asked by Helen Ennis in 1991 for an explanation of the fame of the ‘Sunbaker’, Dupain responded:
I’m a bit worried about it. I think it’s taken on too much … It was a simple affair. We were camping down the south coast and one of my friends leapt out of the surf and slammed down onto the beach to have a sunbake … We made the image and it’s been around, I suppose, as a sort of icon of the Australian way of life.1

Although Dupain took some photographs of his friend as the sunbaker in the 1930s, this image did not appear until his monograph was published in 1948.2 The image he chose was slightly different, a little less monumental due to the positioning of the arms, and with less sand and more sky. The negative was lost and in the 1970s the other version was printed for the first time and, through exhibition and reproduction, became the icon that it is today.

By the late 1940s Dupain had left many of his earlier experiments behind and he wrote:
This little collection is a cross section of that which I consider to be my best work since 1935 … Modern photography must do more than entertain, it must incite thought and by its clear statements of actuality, cultivate a sympathetic understanding of men and women and the life they create and live.3

The ‘Sunbaker’ represents the shifts in Dupain’s practice from private snapshot to public domain, from ardent modernist experimentation to determined recording of actuality and form.4 Within this image is Dupain’s pervasive interest in the individual body as a metaphor for social wellbeing and an exemplar of pure form.

1. Ennis H 1991, ‘Max Dupain: photographs’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p 18
2. Plate 7 in Missingham H 1948, ‘Max Dupain: photographs’, Ure Smith Pty Ltd, Sydney
3. ibid p 12
4. See also Jolly M 1999, ‘Sunbaker’, ‘Signature works’, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney pp 5–6

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007


From the Gallery Shop


Details


Other Title

Sunbaker (Culburra NSW)


Dates

1937
printed 1970s


Media category

Photograph


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph


Dimensions

37.9 x 42.8 cm image; 47.8 x 50.7 cm board


Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r.image and verso board., ink "Max Dupain '37".


Credit

Purchased 1976


Location

Not on display


Accession number

115.1976


Artist information

Max Dupain

Works in the collection

344


Shown in 11 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Referenced in 18 publications

Bibliography


Judy Annear, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian modernism', pg.131-149, Sydney, 2007, 136, 142 (illus.), 195.

Robin Bruckner, Art and Design Book 1, Sydney, 1995, 144 (illus.).

Natasha Bullock (Curator), Soft shadows and sharp lines: Australian photography from Cazneaux to Dupain, Sydney, 2002. no pagination or catalogue numbers

Natasha Bullock, Look, 'Soft and sharp: how Australian photography moved between two styles', pg.21-22, Sydney, Oct 2002, 22.

Sandra Byron, Fine and Mostly Sunny: Photographs from the collection, Sydney, 1991. cat.no. 22

Sandra Byron, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Photography', pg. 125-135, Sydney, 1988, 127 (illus.).

Helen Ennis, Photography and Australia, 'Localism and internationalism', pg.110-133, London, 2007, 113, 114 (illus.). fig.64

Renée Free and Gael Newton, Onsight No.7 - PROFILES, Sydney, 1984?, 22 (illus.).

Leone Huntsman, Sand in our souls, 'The beach and popular culture', pg. 138-145, Carlton South, 2001, 141, 142 (illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Australian Photography', pg. 198-207, Sydney, 1999, 204 (illus.).

Josef Lebovic Gallery and Helen Ennis, Masterpieces of Australian Photography, Twentieth Century Photography, Sydney, 1989, 150, 151 (illus). cat.no. 262

NAKADA Masaaki (Editor), Dômo - Australian Living Handbook, Japan, 1999, 17 (colour illus.). plate no. 5

Robert McFarlane, Black + White - The Masters, 'Max Dupain', pg. 194-207, Sydney, 1999, 195 (illus.).

Gael Newton, Max Dupain retrospective 1930-1980, Sydney, 1980. cat.no. 26

Gael Newtown, Brought to Light: Australian Art 1850–1965 from the Queensland Art Gallery collection, 'It was a Simple Affair. Max Dupain Sunbaker', pg. 142-47, Brisbane, 1998, 142 (illus.), 143 (illus.), 144, 146-7.

S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Thirties and Australia, Sydney, 1980, 18. cat.no. 101

Judith White, Look, 'Sydney-side-on', pg.28-29, Melbourne, Apr 2000, 28 (illus.).

Author Unknown, Workcover News, Sydney, 1995, cover (illus.).