Peace after war and memories
New Zealand, Australia
30 Mar 1878 - 19 Jun 1953
The end of the First World War came on (the now deeply embedded) eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The impact of the war on Australians had been enormous. Cazneaux, who was to lose his son in a later conflict, had friends who had served or who had been killed. This mysterious image marks the end of the conflict and is a memento to what had been lost. Unlike the confronting photomontages of Frank Hurley, Australia’s first official war photographer, this photograph is quiet and obvert. A farmer pauses from work, like a labourer from Jean François Millet’s ‘The Angelus’. He appears to read a telegram, perhaps bringing news of peace.1 Sunbeams break through the clouds and give the scene a dramatic, almost cinematic quality, suggestive of biblical promise: ‘and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.’ This photograph probably had personal connotations for the artist beyond the war. Cazneaux had recently suffered a complete nervous and physical collapse. Although this forced him to quit his job at Freeman’s, it was eventually to bring real equilibrium into his life and make possible a great creative burst of photography throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
1. This figure has been interpreted elsewhere as a soldier-settler
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
gelatin silver photograph
26.4 x 32.4 cm image/sheet; 35.3 x 40.8 cm card
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of the Cazneaux family 1975
Not on display
Shown in 6 exhibitions
Jubilee Exhibition of Photographs (1945), Blaxland Gallery, Sydney, 22 Jan 1945–03 Feb 1945
Project 7 - Harold Cazneaux: 1878 - 1953 (1975), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Aug 1975–28 Sep 1975
Australian Pictorial Photography:
- S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Rocks 12 Jun 1979–08 Jul 1979
- The Victorian College of the Arts Gallery, South Bank 08 Aug 1979–31 Aug 1979
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 01 Dec 1979–30 Jan 1980
Harold Cazneaux, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Dec 1989–11 Mar 1990
Harold Cazneaux: artist in photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Jun 2008–10 Aug 2008
Follow the Flag: Australian artists at war 1914-1945, Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 24 Apr 2015–16 Aug 2015
Referenced in 7 publications
Natasha Bullock, Harold Cazneaux: artist in photography, Sydney, 2008.
Steven Miller, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian pictorialism', pg.71-91, Sydney, 2007, 70 (illus.), 83 (illus.).
Francis J Mortimer (Editor), Photograms of the Year, London, 1920, (illus.).
Gael Newton, Australian Pictorial Photography, Melbourne, 1979, 17. cat.no. 22
Gael Newton, Project 7: Harold Cazneaux 1878 - 1953, Sydney, 1975. cat.no. 14
Campbell Reid (Editor), The Weekend Australian, 'The Australian century supplement', Sydney, 17 Mar 2001-18 Mar 2001, (illus.).
Catherine Speck, Painting ghosts: Australian women artists in wartime, Melbourne, 2004, 87 (colour illus.), 87. illus.no. 46; Note: this print is not from the collection of the AGNSW but from the NGA, Canberra.