Catalogue entry

T03560 Peter Grimes's Apprentice 1977

Oil and PVA on hardboard 36 × 48 (914 × 1219)
Inscribed ‘Aldeburgh/Britten Grimes’
Apprentice/Nolan 27 March 1977' on reverse
Presented by Lord McAlpine 1983
Prov: Lord McAlpine (purchased from the artist)
Exh: Sidney Nolan, 30th Aldeburgh Festival, Aldeburgh, June 1977 (26)

Sidney Nolan has been a regular visitor to the Aldeburgh Festival for many years and was a friend of Benjamin Britten. He contributed exhibitions to several of the Festivals, including a series of studies of Shakespeare's Sonnets in 1964 and a series of flower paintings in 1968.

This particular picture was painted specially for the 30th Festival, where his exhibition was subtitled ‘An artist's response to the music of Benjamin Britten’. The theme of this work is taken from the opera Peter Grimes and shows the death of Grimes's second apprentice. Grimes, a fisherman, had seen a large shoal of fish and dragged his apprentice back to work although it was a Sunday and his day off. Making his way over-hastily down a cliff, the boy slipped and fell to his death. His dead body is seen floating among the fishes; he is still wearing the jersey with an embroidered anchor which was later found washed up on the shore.

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