Sir Sidney Nolan

Antarctica

1964

Medium
Oil paint on hardboard
Dimensions
Support: 1219 x 1219 mm
frame: 1290 x 1290 x 65 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Lord McAlpine of West Green 1983
Reference
T03558

Display caption

In January 1964 Nolan visited Antarctica for eight days. Travelling by helicopter between research stations, including one at the South Pole, Nolan recorded his impressions in watercolour on the 200 blank postcards taken along for this purpose. This work is one of about fifty paintings which Nolan executed in the following eighteen months. He employed paint mixed with oil and an alkyd gel medium, rather than oil and turpentine. This permitted rich surface textures, created in part by his characteristic scraping back technique. Nolan thus evoked the wild ruggedness of the landscape which so impressed him. This work depicts McMurdo Sound on the right, with Mount Erebus looming in the distance.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

T03558 Antarctica 1964

Oil on hardboard 48 × 48 (1219 × 1219)
Inscribed ‘30.Aug 1964/nolan’ b.r.
Presented by Lord McAlpine 1983
Prov: Lord McAlpine (purchased from the artist)

Sidney Nolan visited Antarctica for about eight days in January 1964. He and the author Alan Moorehead (who was preparing a book on the exploration and settlement of the South Pacific) went as guests of Rear Admiral J.R. Reedy, Commander of the United States Navy Antarctic Support Force, and were flown by the U.S. Navy from Christchurch, New Zealand, to the American base at McMurdo Sound. Nolan was greatly impressed not only by the vast, desolate emptiness, but by the colours, far from just white, and the light:

It [the Antarctic] is black, ochre, dark green, and blue, with an oyster-coloured sky and an indigo sea. The colours appear as if under intense moonlight (quoted in The Australian Women's Weekly, 15 September 1965).

He painted some fifty pictures of Antarctica in the following eighteen months, including some which are not simply landscapes but with figures of explorers. This particular work shows McMurdo Sound on the right, with Mount Erebus looming in the background.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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