Important Australian + International Fine Art
27 August 2014


born 1942

oil on composition board

91.0 x 122.0 cm

signed and dated lower right: Garry Shead 96
dated and inscribed verso: THE CORONATION / GARRY SHEAD 96

$60,000 - 80,000
Sold for $132,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 36 - 27 August 2014, Sydney

Eva Breuer Art Dealer, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney


Grishin, S., Garry Shead: Encounters with Royalty, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1998, (illus. pl. 7, p. 45 and back cover)

Catalogue text

When Queen Elizabeth II toured Australia in 1954, her presence made a profound impression upon the Australian public that would endure for years. As the first reigning British monarch to ever visit Australia, the response from the people was enormous and it is estimated that approximately seventy percent of Australia's population flocked to see the Queen and her husband Prince Phillip during their two month tour. Garry Shead was just twelve years old when his school journeyed to the Sydney Showground to welcome the Queen. As she passed slowly in an open car, Shead remembers the exact moment he laid eyes on her, 'I remember seeing her and feeling the eye contact as she passed. I also remember dreaming about her (sometimes sexual dreams) - there was possibly nothing sexy about her, she was like a Walt Disney Cinderella, but I encountered her at the dawning of my own pubescence. There was something unearthly and untouchable in her beauty, a sort of "Noli Me Tangere", so that even a prime minister could not touch her elbow. She passed like an incarnate spirit.'1 The vision of this pure and ethereal monarch remained with him for years and became the impetus for the Royal Suite series, created some forty years after the royal tour.

Coronation is a graceful example of Shead's tender portrayals of the royal family imbued with his own personal relationships and desires. In particular, Coronation demonstrates the close bond between Shead and his mother, and his pubescent fantasy of the Queen. Merging the two identities together, the features of the female figure resemble Shead's mother, whilst she is adorned with the jewels and the regalia of the Queen. The result is the unearthly white goddess who appears foreign and alien against the pure blue sky and the iconic Sydney Harbour.

The many narratives of the Royal Suite series are set against the Australian landscape, contrasting the pomp and ceremony of the Crown against comical kangaroos and koalas. As Sasha Grishin explains, 'The series can also be interpreted as an allegory, an expression of a naive belief in a white goddess, one who was seen as supernatural, who could not be touched or experienced, but could only be worshipped. She came from a remote place and appeared to her subjects in the form of a celestial apparition ... Perhaps on the simplest level, the series is about a quest for beauty and a lost innocence, a quest for a new Holy Grail. It is a tale about the gradual process of disillusionment where realisations of reality gradually dissolve the illusions of the absurd.'2

1. Grishin, S., Garry Shead: Encounters With Royalty, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1998, p. 12
2. Ibid., p. 27