In 1956, Sidney Nolan travelled to the Dardanelles in Turkey, a place synonymous with the Trojan War and Anzac folklore. Nolan was inspired by his reading of Homer's verse The Illiad and Alan Moorehead's 1955 article 'Return to a legend', which likened the siege of Troy to the Gallipoli landings. These experiences and influences culminated in Nolan's epic 'Gallipoli' series. 'The galaxy' 1957–58 depicts a ghostly march of figures emerging from a vortex of swirling and speckled green paint; an allegorical time warp in which the memories of war and the soldiers who lost their lives reverberate from the past into the present. The imagery expresses the fear of nuclear threat after World War II, recalling the particles of an atom bomb as well as the deep recesses and existential nothingness of space.
Soldiers shelled while bathing
synthetic polymer paint on canvas on hardboard
193.0 x 256.0 cm
Signature & date
Signed l.l., "N". Not dated.
Gift of Patrick White 1974
© The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust. Bridgeman Art Library
Where the work was made
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Transferences, The Zwemmer Gallery, London, Jun 1958–Jul 1958
Sidney Nolan: landscapes and legends a retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1987:
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 03 Jun 1987–26 Jul 1987
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 11 Aug 1987–27 Sep 1987
- Art Gallery of Western Australia, Australia 21 Oct 1987–29 Nov 1987
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 15 Dec 1987–31 Jan 1988
Mad through the darkness: Australian artists and the Great War, 25 Apr 2015–11 Oct 2015
Referenced in 6 publications
Jane Clark, Sidney Nolan - landscapes and legends: a retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1987, Sydney, 1987, 124 (illus.).
Peter Craven, The life of Patrick White, Canberra, 2012, 15 (illus.). Photograph shows Patrick White and Sidney Nolan in front of the painting in 1963.
Helen Hewitt, Voices, 'Patrick White: painter manqué', pg. 61-70, Canberra, Winter 1997, 65, 67 (illus.). Illustration shows Patrick White and Sidney Nolan standing in front of the painting, c1960s.
Helen Verity Hewitt, Patrick White, painter, manqué: paintings, painters and their influence on his writing, 'White and the Sydney Art World: I', pg. 44-53, Carlton, 2002, 48, following 80 (illus.), 143. Photograph by Axel Poignant of Patrick White with Sidney Nolan standing before Nolan's painting 'Galaxy', c1960s.
David Marr, Patrick White: A life by David Marr, Milsons Point, 1991, 445.
The Zwemmer Gallery, Transferences, London, 1958, (illus.). cat.no. 4; titled 'Soldiers shelled while bathing'; not dated