Nolan’s fixation with flowers began in 1968 when he witnessed the breathtakingly rare sight of Central Australia in full bloom. Rain had resurrected bulbs lain dormant in the sand for twenty years. Stuck, Nolan proceeded to paint over a thousand studies of flowers, 768 of which were then installed at the National Gallery of Victoria as part of the Bicentenary exhibition of Australian art. This same sequence - dubbed Paradise Gardens - was later exhibited at the Tate before being gifted to the Victorian Arts Centre.
In 1971 a selection of these flowers were immortalised in Alistair McApline’s book Paradise Gardens. Its introduction, written by Robert Melville, declared it “should be called a bestiary of wild flowers, for these specimens are the gorgons… griffons… phoenixes of the plant world”. Indeed, there is a magic to Nolan’s flowers - a timeless power that is not often present in floral studies.
Nolan’s Paradise Gardens can be divided into three subsections: primeval plants emerging from the mud; florals in springtime’s full bloom; and death, or the flower returning to earth. ‘Painting’ stems from the first stage. It is a bud uncoiling from the ground like a fetus preparing for birth. More than just a floral, ‘Painting’ is embedded in the miracle of life after drought. Upon seeing flowers bloom in the eye of Australia, Nolan mused “I would like to inhabit Paradise”.
For collectors of Modern art, Nolan and florals, ‘Painting’ is a historically and symbolically rich, and highly collectible vestige of the artist’s legacy.
Sidney NOLAN (1917 - 1992)
mixed media on paper
Image Size: 28 x 23 cm
Dimensions: 55 x 48 x 3 cm
Marlborough Galleries, London (label verso)
Comes with Letter of Provenance
inscribed verso 12 March 68
© Sidney Nolan / Copyright Agency 2021
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