Sir Sidney Nolan

Women and Billabong


Not on display

Sir Sidney Nolan 1917–1992
Polyvinyl acetate paint on hardboard
Support: 1524 × 1219 mm
frame: 1550 × 1250 × 53 mm
Purchased 1957

Display caption

In 1947-48 Nolan executed a series of paintings inspired by the story of Eliza Fraser. He returned to the theme in 1957, completing 31 paintings including this work and 'In the Cave' (also shown in this room). In the 1860s Eliza Fraser and her husband were shipwrecked on an island off the coast of Queensland. After her husband was murdered by aborigines, Mrs Fraser lived among them. They fed her but stripped her. She was rescued by an escaped convict, David Bracefell, who became her lover and whom Mrs Fraser eventually betrayed. This painting depicts Mrs Fraser in the tropical rain forest which she inhabited for months with Bracefell during their return to civilisation.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Inscr. ‘N 57’ b.r. and, on back, ‘May 1957’.
Polyvinyl acetate on hardboard, 60×48 (152·5×122).
Purchased from the artist (Knapping Fund) 1957.
Exh: Whitechapel Art Gallery, June–July 1957 (86).
Lit: Clark, MacInnes and Robertson, 1961, pp.21–2, repr. pl.89.

Painted in London in 1957, one of the second series of paintings of the story of Mrs Fraser; the first series was painted 1947–8 after a visit to Fraser Island off the coast of Queensland. Mrs Fraser, a Scottish lady, was shipwrecked on the island and lived among the aborigines for six months until discovered by Bracefell, an escaped convict. He led her to a European settlement, whereupon she threatened to denounce him and he returned to the Bush. Mrs Fraser, who had lost all her clothes, is shown naked; in other pictures of the series Bracefell is shown in convict's stripes.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II



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