Twenty Classics of Australian Art
11 November 2020


born 1942

oil on composition board

89.5 x 120.5 cm

signed and dated lower right: Garry Shead 92

$60,000 – 80,000
Sold for $67,500 (inc. BP) in Auction 62 - 11 November 2020, Melbourne

Michael Nagy Fine Art, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney, acquired from above in 1993


Possibly: Garry Shead: ‘D. H. Lawrence series’, Michael Nagy Fine Art, Sydney, 6 – 25 October 1992

Catalogue text

'The only way to do justice to a man like Lawrence who gave so much, is to give another creation. Not explain him, but prove... that one has caught the flame he tried to pass on’.1

Having first discovered the work of D.H. Lawrence during a trip to Papua New Guinea in 1968, Garry Shead immediately discerned significant affinities between his own experiences and those of the author who wrote his novel Kangaroo while living in the coastal township of Thirroul on his visit to Australia in 1922. As Grishin elucidates, ‘When Shead speaks of Lawrence the word 'synchronicity' features frequently; he uses the word in the sense of the strange coincidences or correspondences... [A]t various forks in the road of his life, Lawrence crops up - when he was in New Guinea and decided he would marry Merril, he was reading Lawrence's letters; it was in Vence, where Lawrence died that he met his wife Judith... He introduced Whiteley to 'Wyewurk', Lawrence's cottage at Thirroul, and it was from the house next door... that they painted their diptych (Portrait of D.H. Lawrence, 1973). Whiteley could also feel the presence of Lawrence hovering around the place; and it was at Thirroul that Whiteley died’.2

Although unfolding against the steep escarpment and sweeping bush backdrop that unmistakably characterises the landscape surrounding Thirroul on the northern New South Wales coast, Dusk Thirroul, 1992 does not offer a literal depiction of a specific incident from Lawrence's Kangaroo. Exploring universal themes of love and conflict, identity and alienation, the spiritual and the human, instead the work encapsulates the artist's poignant homage to D.H. Lawrence as 'a personal, intuitive response, rather than an attempt to illustrate Lawrence's narrative’.3 Thus, the figures – presumably Richard Lovat Somers and his wife Harriet of the novel – appear strange and ambiguous, taking on the features of Lawrence and Frieda while at the same time, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Shead and his wife Judith. Similarly, the chief antagonist in the novel, prominent ex-soldier and lawyer Benjamin Cooley (whose fictional nickname is ‘Kangaroo’), is here represented both by the silhouetted figures and the symbolic motif of the omniscient kangaroo, all of which loom ambivalently in the shadows below the verandah railing – the manifestation of a spiritual ‘presence’ rather than a tangible character. A poetic scene – recognisably Australian yet strangely timeless and mythical – indeed Dusk Thirroul eloquently embodies the drama and enormous sense of anticipation present in the novel where the reader remains ‘... waiting, waiting for something to happen, waiting for this spirit of the land to strike’.4

1. Miller, H., The World of D.H. Lawrence: A Passionate Appreciation, Capra Press, California, 1980
2. Grishin, S., Garry Shead and the Erotic Muse, Fine Art Publishing, Sydney, 2001, p. 94
3. Grishin, S., Garry Shead and the D.H. Lawrence Paintings, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1993, p. 14
4. ibid.