(Australia, England 22 Apr 1917–28 Nov 1992)
122.0 x 122.0cm board
The story of the ill-fated 1860 expedition of the Irish explorers Burke and Wills, who attempted to traverse the continent south to north, first preoccupied the artist throughout 1948-50. The totality of their sacrifice was clearly one which impressed him. His own predilection to long soul-searching journeys, coupled with his ability to place the observer in the explorer's eye, evokes an actual vision of the immense skies and the sense of vast space and empty, desolate landscape which these men had experienced.
In the second series, painted 1961-62, Nolan's concern is the suggestion of a universal emotion rather than incidental details of history. He expresses his admiration for these doomed men:
"I doubt that I will ever forget my emotions when first flying over Central Australia and realizing how much we painters and poets owe to our predecessors the explorers, with their frail bodies and superb will-power."
- Sidney Nolan 1967
The Perth newspaper, 'Critic', reported on this series of works, first exhibited in 1962:
"The camels are unforgettable, slightly comic but also disquieting with their long sinewy necks, ... their wobbly swaying stance; and their riders perched precariously on the steep rump seem to have grown into the beasts, a kind of desert centaur. Sitting well back they look rather like figureheads on the wrong end of the ship of the desert."
Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000
Godfrey Phillips International Pty Ltd, Viscount collection: 'The Australian scene' circa 1963, Australia, circa 1963, 6 (illus.). titled 'Burke: Burke and Wills Expedition'
Arts Centre New Metropole, Australian painting and sculpture in Europe today 1963, England, 1963, front cover (illus.). possibly cat.no. 2; titled 'Explorer - Rocky landscape'
Arts Centre New Metropole, Zeitgenössische Malerei und Skulpturen australischer Künstler in Europa 1963, England, 1963, front cover (illus.). possibly cat.no. 2; titled 'Explorer'
Editor Unknown (Editor), Time 26 Apr 1963, 'Sidney Nolan: Painter from Down Under', pg. 25-26, New York, 26 Apr 1963, 25 (colour illus.), 26. titled 'Explorer, Rocky Landscape'; NOTE:Caption of reproduction reads 'Explorer, Rocky Landscape' was inspired by lore of Australia's pioneers. Image provided by Marlborough Fine Art.
Hal Missingham, Sidney Nolan. Retrospective exhibition. Paintings from 1937 to 1967 1967, Domain, 1967, 34. NOTE: General reference
Robert Lindsay., Aspects of Australian Art: Art Gallery of New South Wales travelling art exhibition 1976 1976, 'Sidney Nolan', Sydney, 1976, (colour illus.). cat.no. 57; not paginated
Elwyn Lynn, Sidney Nolan - Australia, Sydney, 1979, 134, 135 (colour illus.).
Sandra McGrath and John Olsen, The artist & the desert, Sydney, 1981, 59 (colour illus.).
Barry Pearce and Patrick McCaughey, Twentieth century Australian masterworks from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Fred Williams Pilbara Series 1985, Tokyo, 1985, 40 (colour illus.). cat.no. 22
Sidney Nolan: Burke and Wills 1986, Sydney, 1986, 14. cat.no. 18
Jane Clark, Sidney Nolan - landscapes and legends: a retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1987 1987, 'Outback', pg.95-108, Sydney, 1987, 95, 96, 106, 107, 133 (illus.), 134.
Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales Handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Domain, 1988, 29-30.
Deborah Edwards, Art treasures: candidate citites for the 2000 Olympic Games: Beijing, Berlin, Brasilia, Istanbul, Manchester, Sydney 1993, 'Burke', pg. 172, Lausanne, 1993, 172, 173 (colour illus.). cat.no. 7 Sydney
Edmund Capon, 10 Masterpieces of Australian Painting 1993, Domain, 1993, (colour illus.).
Margaret Plant, Painting Australia 1995, Sydney, 1995, 41, 63.
Roslynn Haynes, Seeking the Centre, 'Seeing red: from topography to imagery', pg. 161-183, Cambridge, 1998, 176-77 (colour illus.).
Lou Klepac, Australian painters of the twentieth century, 'Sidney Nolan', pg. 136-147, Roseville, 2000, 146 (colour illus.), 147.
Geoffrey Smith, gallery: ngv members magazine Jul 2003, 'Sidney Nolan Desert & Drought', pg. 4-7, Melbourne, Jul 2003, 5. NOTE: General reference.
The Creative School Supply Company, Landscapes: 1788-21st Century Australian 2004?, Box Hill, 2004?, (colour illus.). card no. 6
Barry Pearce, Frances Lindsay, Lou Klepac and Edmund Capon, Sidney Nolan 2007, Sydney, 2007, 178, 181 (colour illus.), 237. cat.no. 84
Kate Hart, Australian art pack: 1788-21st century animals 2007, 'Sidney Nolan: Burke', Box Hill, 2007, (colour illus.). card no. 6
Prue Gibson, Australian art review Nov 2007-Feb 2008, 'Nolan retrospective', pg. 17, New South Wales, Nov 2007-Feb 2008, 17 (colour illus.).
Jeremy Eccles, Art Monthly Australia Nov 2010, 'art + soul', pg. 42-43, Acton, Nov 2010, 43. Book review. General reference.
Australian painting and sculpture in Europe today (1963):
Viscount collection: 'The Australian scene':
Aspects of Australian art: Art Gallery of New South Wales Travelling Art Exhibition 1976, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1976–1977
Twentieth century Australian masterworks from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Fred Williams Pilbara series from the collection of CRA Limited, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, 04 Oct 1985–06 Nov 1985
Sidney Nolan: Burke and Wills, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 07 Nov 1985–26 Jan 1986
Sidney Nolan: landscapes and legends a retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1987:
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
Sidney Nolan (2007-2008):
Australian modern masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales: