We leaned over in our seats and straining down, our foreheads pressed against the glass windows, found our own land and heard its voice alone.
Cynthia Nolan 19621
Between 1947 and 1950 Sidney Nolan spent months travelling through remote areas of Australia. Using money he had made from a successful exhibition of Queensland Outback paintings held at the David Jones Gallery in Sydney in March 1949, Nolan, accompanied by his wife Cynthia and stepdaughter Jinx, travelled through Central Australia, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia. This trip, from June to September 1949, inspired a body of work, including a series of paintings that depict inland Australia from an aerial perspective.
Inland Australiais an extraordinary image of the heart of the continent, possibly of the Durack Range. The undulating shapes and intense colour of the red earth evoke an ‘otherworldly’ sensation – a feeling of the land’s inherent grandeur, timelessness and mystery. Nolan painted the work quickly, with the composition board lying flat on a table. Using sweeping brushstrokes he has pushed the paint around the surface of the work. In some areas the paint has been wiped back, exposing the white undercoat of the composition board.
Nolan won the inaugural Dunlop Australian Art prize of £250 for Inland Australia.2 He described the work as ‘a composite impression of the country from the air’.3 Using photographs he took from the plane as a visual aid, Inland Australia is an example of Nolan’s technique of fusing elements from existing locations with a landscape remembered from experience.
1 Cynthia Nolan, Outback, London: Shenval Press, 1962, p. 206.
2 Arnold Shore, ‘Dunlop prize won by Sidney Nolan’, The Argus, Tuesday 6 June 1950, p. 7.
3 ‘Sydney artist wins big prize with landscape’, Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 6 June 1950, p. 1.