Leda and the Swan is among Sidney Nolan’s most important subjects. It was first brought to his canvas while travelling the USA, with the present work deriving from the Leda Suite - a portfolio of eight lithographs published by Ganymed Press London Ltd in 1961. The image is ghostly, with Leda and Swan just discernible, as though cloaked by smoke.
The myth of Leda goes thus: in order to seduce Leda (the wife of the King of Sparta), Zeus transfigures himself into a swan. After their amorous encounter, Leda gives birth to Zeus’s daughter, the fabled Helen of Troy. The myth of Leda and the Swan has taken various guises throughout art history and literature, first as a historical allegory, then a tale of passion and loss. Through Nolan however, it evades literalness, instead appearing as something tantalisingly ambiguous.
When it was first unveiled, Nolan’s series of Leda and the Swan was criticised for being un-Australian. Yet, this placelessness was precisely the artist’s point. Influenced by the deserts of Arizona, the Thames River, the Mediterranean, poetry and the human body, Nolan’s rendition is as much about Leda, as it is about myths themselves. As he states, “I start from an abstract feeling”, then absorb the surrounding world to arrive “at a landscape you have never seen before” but have always felt.
Dappled, tactical and lyrical, ‘Leda and the Swan’ reflects its maker’s infatuation with mythology. Beyond time and place, as poet Stephen Spender has mused, works like this and the stories they tell “help us to live”. This signed lithograph was pulled from a stone directly carved by Nolan by John Watson on his Crisbrook Waterlead made by J. Barchem Green Ltd.
Examples from Nolan’s Leda and the Swan series are represented at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Gallery of Victoria and Mona. For collectors of Nolan, important prints and Australian art, Leda and the Swan is a spellbinding find.
Sidney NOLAN (1917 - 1992)
'Leda and the Swan' 1961
Edition of 125
Image Size: 53 x 40 cm
Dimensions: 91 x 84 x 2 cm
Signed: Signed and editioned bottom margin
Comes with Letter of Provenance
Original signed lithograph from the Leda Suite; a portfolio containing eight lithographs on the theme of Leda, published by Ganymed Press London Ltd., November 1961, in an edition of 125. The artist has worked directly on the stone which was printed by John Watson on Crisbrook Waterleaf made by J. Barcham Green Ltd.
Availability: in stock
© Sidney Nolan / Copyright Agency 2021