Sir Sidney Nolan

Carcase in Swamp


Not on display

Sir Sidney Nolan 1917–1992
Oil paint on hardboard
Support: 914 × 1219 mm
frame: 945 × 1250 × 51 mm
Presented by Lord McAlpine of West Green 1983

Display caption

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.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

T03555 Carcase in Swamp 1955

Oil on hardboard 36 × 48 (914 × 1219)
Inscribed ‘N.’ b.r. and ‘CARCASE IN SWAMP./1955’, ‘Nolan’, ‘ABANDONED MINE’ and ‘DUR’ on reverse
Presented by Lord McAlpine 1983
Prov: Lord McAlpine (purchased from the artist)

Nolan was commissioned in 1952 by The Courier-Mail of Brisbane to make a series of drawings of the effects of a catastrophic drought in central Australia. He and his wife flew to Darwin in August 1952 and then travelled by road over two of Australia's pioneer cattle routes: the Murranji track along which all cattle from the Victoria River country travel across to Newcastle Waters, and then the Barkly stock route eastwards into Queensland. Everywhere they went they saw the bodies of animals that had died of thirst and starvation, with twisted bones and decaying ligaments. (Already by August 1952 some 1,250,000 head of cattle had been lost in Queensland and the Northern Territory combined). Then, early in 1953, he followed the Birdsville route from Maree, in South Australia, to Birdsville, in Queensland. Besides making drawings from memory of what he saw on these journeys, he took numerous photographs of the carcasses of animals (though not of the landscape itself).

His paintings on this theme were made between 1952 and 1955, this work being one of the last of the series.

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


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