Nightfall, when wattle stains the doubting heart
Australia, England, Spain, Portugal
21 Jan 1928 -
This noctural landscape is based partly on the environment around Wagga Wagga where Olsen lived in 1980 and was to remain until his move to Clarendon in South Australia in July the following year.
Inspired by the poem 'Terra Australis' by Australian poet James McAuley, 'Nightfall, when wattle stains the doubting heart' is more sombre in mood than his work of the previous decade. Ochres, yellows and browns have been replaced by the cool liquid colours of water and night, shot through with iridescent yellow.
Concerned with concepts of 'the void' and 'the edge', which were important for the artist in the 1970s and early 1980s, Olsen has created an atmosphere of serenity - a highly restrained and contemplatory apprehension of the Australian landscape.
In a 1993 interview, Olsen declared:
"I've learned that life isn't about travelling from peak to peak; life is the ability to travel in the valleys as well."
Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000
oil on canvas
167.0 x 167.0 cm stretcher; 168.5 x 169.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. corner, blue oil "John Olsen ’80".
Not on display
© John Olsen. Licensed by Viscopy,Australia
Shown in 10 exhibitions
John Olsen (1980), Australian Galleries, Melbourne, Collingwood, 27 Oct 1980–08 Nov 1980
Three years on: acquisitions 1978-81, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Oct 1981–01 Dec 1981
Two centuries of Australian painting, a selection from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Orange Regional Gallery, Orange, 19 Apr 1986–15 Jun 1986
John Olsen - in search of the open country (1986), Heide Park and Art Gallery, Bulleen, 05 Aug 1986–14 Sep 1986
John Olsen retrospective (1991-92):
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 01 Nov 1991–02 Feb 1992
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 08 May 1992–28 Jun 1992
Art Treasures of Olympic Cities, Lausanne Olympic Museum, 22 Jun 1993–03 Oct 1993
Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000
The Big River Show - Murrumbidgee Riverine, Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, Australia, 11 Oct 2002–01 Dec 2002
Australian modern masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales:
Destination Sydney, Mosman Art Gallery, Mosman, 05 Dec 2015–07 Feb 2016
Referenced in 11 publications
Edmund Capon, 10 Masterpieces of Australian Painting, Sydney, 1993, colour illus..
Edmund Capon and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'Australian 20th Century Art', pg. 71-89, Sydney, 1984, 80 (colour illus.).
Betty Churcher, Australian notebooks, 'Art Gallery of New South Wales', pg. 45-90, Carlton, 2014, 82, 83 (colour illus.), 84, 254.
Deborah Edwards, Two centuries of Australian painting: a selection from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Introduction', pg. 8-14, Sydney, 1986, 46 (illus.). cat.no. 54
Deborah Hart, John Olsen, Sydney, 1991, 150 (colour illus.), 151. cat.no. 98
Deborah Hart, Australian painters of the twentieth century, 'John Olsen', pg. 196-207, Sydney, 2000, 201, 205 (colour illus.).
Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 32.
Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Landscape and gesture', pg. 239-240, Sydney, 2000, 251 (colour illus.), 301.
Barry Pearce, Three years on: a selection of acquisitions 1978-1981, 'Australian Art', pg. 5-26, Sydney, 1981, 20 (illus.). cat.no. 30
Barry Pearce, Art treasures: candidate citites for the 2000 Olympic Games: Beijing, Berlin, Brasilia, Istanbul, Manchester, Sydney, 'Nightfall, when wattle stains the doubting heart', pg. 178, Lausanne, 1993, 178, 179 (colour illus.). cat.no. 10 Sydney
Gavin Wilson, The Big River show: Murrumbidgee Riverine, Wagga Wagga, 2002, 54, 55 (colour illus.), 83.