- Place where the work was made
New South Wales
- Media category
- Materials used
- oil on canvas
- 167.0 x 167.0 cm stretcher; 168.5 x 169.0 cm frame
- Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. corner, blue oil "John Olsen ’80".
- Purchased 1981
- Not on display
- Accession number
- © Estate of John Olsen/Copyright Agency
- Artist information
Works in the collection
This noctural landscape is based partly on the environment around Wagga Wagga where Olsen lived in 1980 and was to remain until his move to Clarendon in South Australia in July the following year.
Inspired by the poem 'Terra Australis' by Australian poet James McAuley, 'Nightfall, when wattle stains the doubting heart' is more sombre in mood than his work of the previous decade. Ochres, yellows and browns have been replaced by the cool liquid colours of water and night, shot through with iridescent yellow.
Concerned with concepts of 'the void' and 'the edge', which were important for the artist in the 1970s and early 1980s, Olsen has created an atmosphere of serenity - a highly restrained and contemplatory apprehension of the Australian landscape.
In a 1993 interview, Olsen declared:
"I've learned that life isn't about travelling from peak to peak; life is the ability to travel in the valleys as well."
Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000
Shown in 12 exhibitions
John Olsen (1980), Australian Galleries, Melbourne, Collingwood, 27 Oct 1980–08 Nov 1980
Three years on: acquisitions 1978-81, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Oct 1981–01 Dec 1981
Two centuries of Australian painting, a selection from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Orange Regional Gallery, Orange, 19 Apr 1986–15 Jun 1986
John Olsen - in search of the open country (1986), Heide Park and Art Gallery, Melbourne, 05 Aug 1986–14 Sep 1986
John Olsen retrospective (1991-92), National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne, 01 Nov 1991–02 Feb 1992
John Olsen retrospective (1991-92), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 08 May 1992–28 Jun 1992
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
The Big River Show - Murrumbidgee Riverine, Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, Australia, 11 Oct 2002–01 Dec 2002
Australian modern masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Ballarat, Ballarat, 05 Oct 2011–27 Nov 2011
Australian modern masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle, 10 Dec 2011–04 Mar 2012
Destination Sydney, Mosman Art Gallery, Mosman, 05 Dec 2015–07 Feb 2016
John Olsen The You Beaut Country, Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 16 Sep 2016–12 Feb 2017
John Olsen The You Beaut Country, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Mar 2017–12 Jun 2017
John Olsen: Goya's Dog, National Art School, Darlinghurst, 11 Jun 2021–27 Nov 2021
John Olsen: Goya's Dog, Ngununggula Southern Highlands Regional Gallery, Bowral, 19 Mar 2022–15 May 2022
Referenced in 12 publications
Edmund Capon AM, OBE and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'Australian 20th Century Art', pg. 71-89, Sydney, 1984, 80 (colour illus.).
Edmund Capon AM, OBE, 10 Masterpieces of Australian Painting, Sydney, 1993, colour illus..
Betty Churcher, Australian notebooks, 'Art Gallery of New South Wales', pg. 45-90, Melbourne, 2014, 82, 83 (colour illus.), 84, 254.
Deborah Edwards, Two centuries of Australian painting: a selection from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Introduction', pg. 8-14, Sydney, 1986, 46 (illus.). cat.no. 54
Deborah Hart, John Olsen, Sydney, 1991, 150 (colour illus.), 151. cat.no. 98
Deborah Hart, Australian painters of the twentieth century, 'John Olsen', pg. 196-207, Sydney, 2000, 201, 205 (colour illus.).
David Hurlston and Deborah Edwards (Editors), John Olsen: the You Beaut Country, Melbourne, 2016, 147 (colour illus.).
Barry Pearce, Art treasures: candidate citites for the 2000 Olympic Games: Beijing, Berlin, Brasilia, Istanbul, Manchester, Sydney, 'Nightfall, when wattle stains the doubting heart', pg. 178, Lausanne, 1993, 178, 179 (colour illus.). cat.no. 10 Sydney
Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Landscape and gesture', pg. 239-240, Sydney, 2000, 251 (colour illus.), 301.
Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 32.
Barry Pearce, Three years on: a selection of acquisitions 1978-1981, 'Australian Art', pg. 5-26, Sydney, 1981, 20 (illus.). cat.no. 30
Gavin Wilson, The Big River show: Murrumbidgee Riverine, Wagga Wagga, 2002, 54, 55 (colour illus.), 83.
Other works by John Olsen
See all 133 works