In 1950-52 Australia suffered the worst drought in its history. By August 1952 one and a quarter million cattle had perished in Queensland and the Northern Territory. In the same year Nolan was commissioned by a Brisbane newspaper, the Courier Mail, to make drawings which recorded the catastrophe. As a result Nolan travelled extensively in the worst-hit areas where he found thousands of carcasses strewn over vast areas, drying and decaying in the relentless heat. In addition to the many drawings he made, Nolan also took numerous photographs of the petrified and twisted remains of cattle. This painting is one of many which Nolan subsequently based on these preliminary studies.