Important Australian + International Fine Art
26 August 2009

Peter Booth

born 1940

oil on linen

127.0 x 249.0 cm

signed verso: BOOTH

$120,000 - 160,000

Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne
Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney


Peter Booth, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne, 9 – 31 July 2004

Catalogue text

With a career spanning over 40 years, Peter Booth is internationally recognised as one of Australia's most significant and influential artists. From his inclusion in the 1968 National Gallery of Victoria exhibition The Field, his paintings are now held in all major Australian National and State Gallery collections, in addition to the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Centro Cultural-Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico.

It was in the winter of 1989 that Booth first started painting what were to become his celebrated 'snow paintings'. In part informed by his childhood years in Sheffield in England's industrial north, the works also represented a transition in Booth's oeuvre, which he likens to the journey in Milton's epic sequence of poems, Paradise Lost, (1667), to Paradise Regained, (1671). More specifically, the series was inspired by Booth's re-reading of William Shakespeare's play Macbeth with its themes of moral and political corruption reflected in unnatural violations of the natural realm.

Like so many of Booth's epic snow-bound landscapes, Painting (Landscape with Stone Walls) 2002, presents almost as a stage set for the great heroic acts of history. Empty of figures, the snow paintings are overwhelmed by a profound atmosphere of silence. Populated only by the crumbled vestiges of rocky walls and buildings, our painting eludes both to past devastation but also importantly to the possibility of future renewal. As Jason Smith notes '...for Booth, the winter landscape is one of serenity and the promise of renewal. It reminds us of the resilience of nature and is a metaphor for human endurance against the physical and psychological trails of life...'1

Bound to the endless cycle of the seasons, this work was painted in the same year as Untitled 2002 (Queensland Art Gallery collection), a landscape lashed by rain and the dissolving snow which one may speculate is the spring to our blanketed, ruined winter. Neither contains a point of entry or specific focal point. There are no roads, paths or rivers through which we can navigate the vastness of these taciturn landscapes. Instead, we are left to forge our own course and venture forth.

Painting (Landscape with Stone Walls), 2002 represents a unique and profoundly contemporary approach to the landscape. As noted by Dr Melissa Miles, 'Much has been written about Australia's long and powerful landscape tradition as a means through which European's have come to grips with the often harsh environment. However, rather than seeking to tame or take possession of the land through representation, Peter Booth refigures it as the unpredictable ground from which civilisations may both emerge and fall.'2

1. Smith, J., Peter Booth: Human / Nature, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003, pp. 14-15
2. Miles, M., 'Peter Booth and subtleties in the epic' in Brought to Light II: Contemporary Australian Art 1966 - 2006 from the Queensland Art Gallery Collection, Queensland Art Gallery, Queensland, 2007, p. 439