Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information




Australian art

Contemporary art

View More:


Eternal youth



Jenny Watson


1951 -


Comprising two parts: a larger figurative painting with a horse hair tail hanging in front, next to a smaller text, 'Eternal youth' combines a sense of adventure with the reality that artworks are for sale and that being purchased by a museum is highly desirable, for an artist's self esteem and their career. Painted in 1992, the work was exhibited with a larger suite of paintings the following year, when the artist was chosen to represent Australia at the 1993 Venice Biennale.

Reflecting the hype, gossip and speculation that usually follow these major art events, Jenny Watson's paintings reminds us that when times-or in this case an artist's life-reaches a 'high point' there is still the chance that things may fall through. The figure with the guitar case and the title 'Eternal youth' seems to suggest the desirability of being young and also perhaps the unsettled life an artist leads. Drawing an analogy between the artist's life with all its career vagaries or even that of an iterant busker, the figure seems ready to perform for their supper.

The text on the panel is both ironic and predictive, an affirmative statement embodying the desire of the artist for a museum to purchase the work and in conjunction with the figure the suggestion that the thought this work will make it could just be blind optimism. The horse's tail stands in for the figures hair and also recalls Watson's great love of horses and identification with them, a recurring motif in her work.


Place where the work was made

Melbourne Victoria Australia



Materials used

oil on velvet, false horse tail and ribbon, synthetic polymer paint on canvas


dimensions variable :

a - right panel, 152 x 76 x 9 cm, stretcher

b - left panel, 50.5 x 40.5 cm, stretcher

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Anonymous gift 2013. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Jenny Watson

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 4 publications


Judy Annear, Jenny Watson: paintings with veils and false tails, Melbourne, 1993, 34 (colour illus.), 48. 2

Dr Chris McAuliffe, Jenny Watson: here, there and everywhere, 'Here, there, everywhere', pg. 15-37, Melbourne, Jan 2012, 25, 29 (colour illus.). 24

Andrew Stephens., The Age, "'Dreams' traverse the distance", Melbourne, 28 Jan 2012, (colour illus.). page number unknown; Watson is photographed standing beside the work

Natalie Wilson and Anneke Jaspers, Foundation Newsletter #22, 'Curators' and coordinators' reports: Australian art', pg. 6-7, Sydney, Jun 2013, 6.