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An image of Nightfall, when wattle stains the doubting heart by John Olsen

John Olsen

(Australia, England, Spain, Portugal 21 Jan 1928 – )

Nightfall, when wattle stains the doubting heart
Place of origin
Wagga WaggaNew South WalesAustralia
Media category
Materials used
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".
Purchased 1981
Accession number
© John Olsen. Licensed by Viscopy,Australia
Not on display
Further information

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 Ochres, yellows and browns have been replaced by the cool liquid colours of water and night, shot through with iridescent yellow.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

Bibliography (11)

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.). 54

Deborah Hart, John Olsen, East Roseville, 1991, 150 (colour illus.), 151. 98

Deborah Hart, Australian painters of the twentieth century, 'John Olsen', pg. 196-207, Roseville, 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.). 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.). 10 Sydney

Gavin Wilson, The Big River show: Murrumbidgee Riverine, Wagga Wagga, 2002, 54, 55 (colour illus.), 83.

Exhibition history (9)

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, Australia, 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):

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 City Art Gallery, Australia, 11 Oct 2002–01 Dec 2002

Australian modern masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales: