In 1957, Sidney Nolan moved to a river frontage house at Putney in London. The muddy tidal reaches of the Thames began to influence his palette and, utilising a new medium of fast-drying polyvinyl acetate mixed with dry pigments, he began to scrape and pull the paint in thin layers across the surface of the board with a squeegee.
Still fresh in his mind was a recent visit in 1955 to Greece, where the stories of the battle at Gallipoli and the ancient myth of Leda and the Swan became new obsessions and resulted in a group of drawings in ink and crayon. These later informed the series of portraits based on the Gallipoli tragedy and the darkly haunting paintings of Leda, which he embarked upon during his Harkness Fellowship residency in New York in 1958.
Memories of forms gliding on the Thames were evoked through the slick texture of the polyvinyl acetate, allowing figures to realise themselves within the medium like apparitions haunting the watery landscape.
'Animal in swamp' was first exhibited at Durlacher Bros Gallery in New York in 1958 and included in Nolan's first retrospective, held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1967.
polyvinyl acetate on hardboard
151.5 x 124.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.l. corner, brown/green polyvinyl acetate paint "n". Not dated.
Gifted by Ausgrid on behalf of the NSW Government 2013
Not on display
© The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust. Bridgeman Art Library
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Sidney Nolan, Durlacher Bros., Oct 1958–Nov 1958
Sidney Nolan retrospective exhibition. Paintings from 1937 to 1967:
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 13 Sep 1967–29 Oct 1967
- National Gallery of Victoria [Swanston Street], Melbourne 22 Nov 1967–17 Dec 1967
Important Australian art, Sotheby's Gallery Sydney, Woollahra, 22 Apr 2008 -
Referenced in 5 publications
Max Harris, Art and Australia [series 5, vol. 1, no. 4], 'The art collectors 1: Kim Bonython', pg. 226, Sydney, Feb 1964-Apr 1964, 226 (colour illus.).
Hal Missingham, Sidney Nolan. Retrospective exhibition. Paintings from 1937 to 1967, Sydney, 1967, 22. cat.no. 22
John Saxby (Editor), Look, 'Lost boys from the bush found in the city', pg. 10, Sydney, May 2015, 10.
Editor Unknown (Editor), Sotheby's Sydney: Important Australian Art, 22 April 2008, Australia, 2008, 84, 85 (colour illus.). lot no. 42; estimated price $70,000-90,000
Arts, 'In the galleries', New York, 1958, 57.