Painted while travelling the USA, Sidney Nolan’s ‘Leda and the Swan’ illustrates an ancient myth. In this myth, Zeus transfigures into a swan to seduce Leda, the wife of the King of Sparta. Afterwards, Leda gives birth to Zeus’s daughter, the fateful Helen of Troy. Throughout literature and art, this myth has resurfaced under various guises - first as a historical allegory, then as a tale of passion and loss. Through Nolan however, it evades literalness, to instead appear as evocative as it is ambiguous - cementing what John Olsen observed , that Nolan is among Australia’s best lyrical painters.
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 they stories they tell “help us to live”. Painted the year before his major Leda and the Swan series was exhibited, this work represents an incredible collector’s opportunity. Examples from Nolan’s series are represented at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Gallery of Victoria and Mona.
Sidney NOLAN (1917 - 1992)
'Leda and the Swan' 1959
mixed media on paper
Image Size: 29 x 24 cm
Dimensions: 49 x 44 x 2 cm
Signed: signed verso with initial N and inscribed with date 28th November 1959
Comes with Letter of Provenance
Availability: in stock
Condition:Very Good: Describes a work of art’s image As New, but may show some small signs of surrounding wear. There are no tears to paper margin or disruption to paint surface. Image is in Fine condition.
© The Artist or Assignee