Godfrey Miller, an esoteric draftsman, sculptor and painter, is widely regarded as one of Australia's most sophisticated abstractionists. New Zealand born and educated, he settled permanently in Sydney in 1939 following military service at Gallipoli and Egypt as well as study and travel throughout Europe and Asia.
'Nude and the moon' c1960 belongs to the major series of 'Nude and the moon' paintings which occupied Miller for a nearly a decade, from the mid 1950s until his death. Clearly aligned to the western tradition of reclining nudes, ranging from Titian and Velasquez to Picasso and Matisse, the artist's ambitions for this series were specific: 'there won't be much in it but differences which are subtle. It will be the 'least reason' or the 'most painters' work of mine'. The painting encodes a mystical order which remains ultimately mysterious. A youthful female nude, her faceless head turned in contemplation of the moon, reclines on a couch in covert reference to classical Diana, goddess of the moon. The figure is abstracted under the precepts of Miller's idiosyncratic cubism, and yet also infers the posed life model.
The composition is gridded in an arresting network of ruled pencil lines which describe both the pictorial and the theoretical foundations upon which Miller schematically constructed his images over extended periods of time. Numberless small squares and diamonds in tonal gradations in white, grey, green and purple synthesise volume and space, and poetically realise the interconnectedness of all matter or what Miller called a 'Unity' in this painting. Such Platonic drives to express the underlying realities of the world were informed by the artist's commitment to the universal system of mathematics and the Golden Section, and his preoccupation with anthroposophical and theosophical knowledges.
A retrospective exhibition on the work of Godfrey Miller was held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1996. An influential teacher at the National Art School, formerly East Sydney Technical College, Miller inspired the work of a generation of major Sydney artists including John Olsen, Ken Unsworth and Ross Mellick.
Reclining nude in the garden
oil on canvas
65.8 x 102.0 cm stretcher; 81.5 x 117.6 x 6.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.r. corner, brush and black ink "Godfrey miller". Not dated.
Bequest of Nicolle Geraldine Torda 2012
Not on display
© Estate of Godfrey Miller