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The arrival of implacable gifts



James Gleeson


21 Nov 1915 - 20 Oct 2008


'We often wish for things, that if the wish were granted, it would be detrimental for us. The gift would overawe us. If we get the gift it could dominate or wreck our real life. It occurred to me that this idea was linked up with the Cargo Cult. Primitive people thought gifts would come from the sky, dropped from silver-winged birds. These gifts would make life easy, fulfil their heart's desire. So often these gifts turn out to be anything but beneficent. So I thought of a sky like a stormy sea where incoming gifts are deposited like wreckage on people underneath, including me - right under the fallout. The sea deposits all these things that were longed for, that turn out to be things that bind us or even destroy us.'

- James Gleeson, 1986




Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas


198.0 x 245.0 cm stretcher; 204.0 x 251.7 x 3.4 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l. corner, red oil "Gleeson '85".


Purchased 1985

Accession number


Artist information

James Gleeson

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 17 publications


20-25., Senior artwise: visual arts 11-12, 'James Gleeson', Milton, 2000, 22 (colour illus.). plate no. 3.2

Deborah Edwards., Australian Collection Focus: James Gleeson & Robert Klippel Madame Sophie Sesostoris (a pre-raphaelite satire) 1947-48, 'Below the surface: James Gleeson & Robert Klippel Madame Sophie Sesostoris (a pre-raphaelite satire) 1947-48', Sydney, 1998.

Peter Gotting., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Aging survivor is still on his voyage of discovery', Sydney, 04 Aug 2000, page unknown. Metropolitan section of newspaper.

Bruce James, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Light fantastic', pg. 11, Sydney, 02 Sep 2000, 11. NOTE: page 11 of Spectrum lift-out.

Bruce James, Australian painters of the twentieth century, 'James Gleeson', pg. 124-135, Sydney, 2000, 130 (colour illus.), 131, 134.

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 170 (colour illus.).

Hendrik Kolenberg, James Gleeson: drawings for paintings, 'Introduction', pg. 11-16, Sydney, 2003, 13, 16, 26, 87 (colour illus.).

Hendrik Kolenberg, Look, 'Revealing drawings: ideas that were turned into monumental paintings', pg. 22-26, Sydney, Mar 2003, front cover (colour illus.), 5 (colour illus.), 26.

Terence Maloon, Look, 'The breadth of Darwin, A man who influenced the whole of western culture', pg. 14-15, Sydney, Jul 2009, 14 (colour illus.). Article promotes eight lectures on Darwin which has been organised by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales.

Ewen McDonald, AGNSW Collections, 'From Colonialism to late Modernism', pg. 7-106, Sydney, 1994, 76, 77 (colour illus.).

Margaret Meagher (Editor), State of the arts, 'AGNSW polishes the silver', pg. 12, Sydney, Aug 2000-Dec 2000, 12 (colour illus.). Review of 'Australian Icons' exhibition.

Barry Pearce, The Weekend Australian, 'Time makes its judgment', pg. 2-3, Sydney, 12 Aug 2000-13 Aug 2000, 3 (colour illus.). This colour supplement is a 'Review Special' published for the 'Weekend Australian'. It consists of a four-page, colour wrap-around for the 'Weekend Australian Review'. 'The Australian' was the media sponsor for the AGNSW Exhibition 'Australian Icons', for the Olympic Arts Festival 2000.

Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The enduring image', pg. 265-266, Sydney, 2000, 278, 279 (colour illus., detail), 281 (colour illus.), 301.

Barry Pearce, Look, 'New Look for 20th Century Australian Galleries', pg. 13, Heidelberg, Nov 1998, 13.

Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 33.

Ursula Prunster, Aspects of Australian art, Sydney, 2000, (illus.). card no. 10: James Gleeson and Robert Klippel 'Madame Sophie Sesostoris (a pre-raphaelite satire) 1947-48

Geoffrey Smith, Art and Australia (Vol. 40, No. 4), 'James Gleeson', pg. 626-633, Sydney, Jun 2003-Aug 2003, 630, 633 (colour illus.).