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An image of Study for 'The fortress' by James Gleeson

James Gleeson

(Australia 21 Nov 1915 – 20 Oct 2008)

Study for 'The fortress'
Place of origin
SydneyNew South WalesAustralia
Media category
Materials used
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
Accession number
© Gleeson/O'Keefe Foundation
Not on display
Further information

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.

Bibliography (1)

Hendrik Kolenberg, James Gleeson: drawings for paintings, 'Introduction', pg. 11-16, Sydney, 2003, 13, 48 (colour illus.). 12a

Exhibition history (1)

James Gleeson: drawings for paintings, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Apr 2003–15 Jun 2003