Gleeson's love of music was formed in his childhood, the German romantic composer Richard Wagner (1813-83) being a favourite. Wagner's personal philosophy of art placed equal emphasis on the role of the conscious and subconscious mind. his opera 'Tristan and Isolde' 1856-59 is set in the middle ages and tells the story of the doomed love of Cornish knight Tristan and Irish princess Isolde.
'Sea wrack involving the heads of Tristan and Isolde' was painted in London and is one of Gleeson's most successful and complex early works - a synthesis of motifs to which Gleeson returned on many occasions, such as the column of multi-faced heads and skulls, fire burning under the night sky and bound figures. The heads of Tristan and Isolde are entwined with hair and flanked by tribal masks.
Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, 'James Gleeson: drawings for paintings', Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2003, pg. 43.
Studies for 'Sea-wreck involving the heads of Tristan and Isolde (Head studies)
pen and blue and black ink, blue ball-point pen, wash
25.4 x 13.4 cm sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Frank O'Keefe 1993
Not on display
© Gleeson/O'Keefe Foundation
Where the work was made
Shown in 1 exhibition
James Gleeson: drawings for paintings, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Apr 2003–15 Jun 2003
Referenced in 1 publication
Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, James Gleeson: drawings for paintings, Sydney, 2003, 43, 44 (colour illus.). cat.no. 8e