This bold composition, in which an isolated male figure has been placed in the dead centre of an empty seascape fringed with soft hills set against a pale violet sky is one of Nolan's most haunting images of the late 1940s. It is based on his visit to Fraser Island in North Queensland, which he visited in 1947, partly to investigate the accidental death of his brother Ray in Cooktown two years earlier.
Nolan read about the story of the shipwrecked Englishwoman Eliza Fraser, who became stranded amongst local Aborigines and was rescued by escaped convict David Bracewell, and painted a series pertaining to the narrative. The figure could represent Bracewell, Nolan himself, or perhaps the ghost of the artist's brother. However, the abiding existential mood of this remarkable work transcends local legend, lifting it into the realm of metaphor about the fundamental condition of individual humanity.
Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2001
Ripolin enamel on hardboard
77.0 x 105.0 cm board; 92.7 x 121.0 x 4.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.r. corner, white synthetic polymer paint "N". Not dated.
Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 2001
Not on display
© The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust/Bridgeman Art Library
Shown in 6 exhibitions
Sidney Nolan (1948), The Moreton Galleries, Brisbane, 17 Feb 1948–28 Feb 1948
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, Perth 21 Oct 1987–29 Nov 1987
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 15 Dec 1987–31 Jan 1988
Sir Sidney Nolan: a retrospective celebrating his 75th birthday (1992), The Terrace Gallery, Harewood, 19 Jul 1992–31 Oct 1992
Nolan's Nolans: a reputation reassessed, Agnew's, London, London, 11 Jun 1997–25 Jul 1997
Sidney Nolan (2007-2008):
Referenced in 22 publications
Brian Adams, Sidney Nolan: such is life, Melbourne, 1987, 95 (illus.), 96.
Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 2001 [for the year ended 30 June, 2001], Sydney, 2001, 8, 13 (colour illus.), 24, 26.
Giles Auty, Sidney Nolan, 'Esstential Nolan', pg. 13, Brisbane, 1948, 13. NOTE: Review of 'Nolan: A Reputation Reassessed'.
Robyn Bondfield., Nolan's Fraser, 'Nolan's Fraser', South Brisbane, 1989, (colour illus.).
Jane Clark, Sidney Nolan - landscapes and legends: a retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1987, 'Travelling north', pg. 89-90, Sydney, 1987, 91, 92 (colour illus.). NOTE: catalogue entry on page 91
Sir Kenneth Clark, Bryan Robertson and Colin MacInnes, Sidney Nolan, London, 1961, 21, 22. NOTE: General early Australian history
Nicholas Isherwood, Sir Sidney Nolan: a retrospective celebrating his 75th birthday, Harewood, 1992, 6.
Nicholas Isherwood, Nolan's Nolans: a reputation reassessed, London, 1997, (colour illus.). cat.no. 33; price £90,000
Bruce James, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Pick of the crop for wily Capon: Gallery acquisitions analysis', pg. 16, Sydney, 12 Apr 2001, 16.
Merlin James, The Burlington Magazine, 'Review: Sidney Nolan, London', pg. 644-646, London, Sep 1997, 645.
Barry Pearce, Look: 1953-2003 celebrating 50 years, 'Presenting our own artists: how the AGS put balance into the Australian collection', pg. 42-44, Sydney, May 2003, 43-44.
Barry Pearce, Sidney Nolan, 'Nolan's Parallel Universe', pg. 17-65, Sydney, 2007, 34 (colour illus.), 62, 63, 233. cat.no. 44; titled 'Frazer Island'
T.G. Rosenthal, Sidney Nolan, 'Mrs Fraser', pg. 100-111, London, 2002, 104-105, 106 (colour illus.), 108.
Sebastian Smee'., The Australian, 'Gallery makes room for foundation's gift of Nolans', Sydney, 21 Dec 2004.
Joyce Stirling., Brisbane Telegraph, 'I'm not so artful', Brisbane, 17 Feb 1948, page unknown.
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, Sydney, Oct 2007, 11. NOTE: Society President, Michael Feneley referencing the Nolan exhibition.
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Doing justice to Nolan', pg. 8, Sydney, Mar 2005, 8 (colour illus.). NOTE: Reproduction shows Judith White, executive director of the Society, in front of the work.
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Important purchases: what the Society and Contempo bought for the Gallery in 2001', pg. 16-17, Melbourne, Dec 2001-Jan 2002, 16, 17 (colour illus.).
The Moreton Galleries, Sidney Nolan, Brisbane, 1948. cat.no. 8; titled 'Island'; not paginated
Bronwyn Watson., Look, 'Nolan boost', Melbourne, Jun 2001, 18 (colour illus.), 19.
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Home annual: Australian life and scenery, Sydney, Oct 1935.
Editor Unknown, The Courier Mail, 'Little appeal in primitives', Brisbane, 18 Feb 1948, page unknown. NOTE: Review of Moreton Galleries exhibition by Elizabeth Webb; see Curator's files