Perhaps Sidney Nolan’s most significant contribution to Australian art lies with his evocation of myth. In his Ned Kelly series, he narrated a bushranger’s life and in turn, revealed how deeply storytelling is entwined in national identity. Under Nolan, the landscape is not just desert and sky, but the habitat of myth.
In ‘Burke and Wills Expedition III’, Nolan turns to another event in Australian history – the attempted 1860–61 expedition of nineteen European settlers from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Its leaders, Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills as well as seven other men died on the journey, with only one managing to successfully cross the continent.
A century later in 1949, Nolan himself travelled to Central and North-West Australia. When flying across the land, he wrote:
“I doubt that I will ever forget my emotions when first flying over Central Australia and realising how much we painters and poets owe to our predecessors the explorers, with their frail bodies and superb willpower.”
The Burke and Wills Expedition struck him as both a tragic and stoic tale. Like his Ned Kelly works, which were conceived the year after this series, pathos coexists with adventure; displacement with discovery. Nolan acutely understands the landscape’s dual magnetism and threat.
A similar edition of this work is held at the Tate Modern, London. While this work has faded in comparison, this is not necessarily a detraction. Rather, as an early adopter of new mediums, the inks Nolan used were likely not as robust as they are now and thus, embody his experimental process. Not only this, but the ghostly hues correspond thematically with the work, recalling how myths haunt us.
Beautifully presented, signed and ready to hang, ‘Burke and Wills Expedition III' is a treasure for collectors of Nolan, this series or those interested in Australian history.
Sidney NOLAN (1917 - 1992)
'Burke and Wills Expedition III' 1975
screenprint on paper
Image Size: 65 x 75 cm
Dimensions: 105 x 115 x 5 cm
Signed: signed Nolan lower right
Comes with Letter of Provenance
This print was published in 1976. This print was published in 1976. Over the years there has been some fading of the inks however the effect is muted and pleasing. Work of art has faded but is nevertheless in good and pleasing condition. See similar print in the collection of the Tate Gallery: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nolan-burke-and-wills-expedition-iii-p05380.
Availability: in stock
Condition: Fair: Work of art has faded but is nevertheless in good and pleasing condition. The frame is in very good condition
© The Artist or Assignee