Gleeson first conceived this distinctively shaped vessel after reading about burial customs in Sir Thomas Browne's 'Hydriotaphia Urn-Burial; or, a Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns Lately Found in Norfolk' 1658. The urn occurs in a number of paintings, including 'The fortress' 1949, 'Flight' 1950; there is also an oil study for 'Flight' in the collection, and 'The trap 2' 1971.
Gleeson described the urn in 'Flight' as representing an entry into Hell. Alongside the steps leading to the urn a number of skulls in bark shelters mark the way. Also influential was the existentialist one-act play 'No exit' by French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre (1905-80) first performed in 1944, in which the three principal characters find themselves in Hell.
Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, 'James Gleeson: drawings for paintings', Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2003, pg. 48.
blue ball-point pen, pen and blue and sienna ink, pale blue wash
6.4 x 7.9 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, James Gleeson: drawings for paintings, 'Introduction', pg. 11-16, Sydney, 2003, 13, 48 (colour illus.). cat.no. 12a