Important Australian + International Fine Art
27 August 2014


(1917 - 1992)

oil and Ripolin enamel on composition board

122.0 x 152.5 cm

signed centre left: Nolan
signed, dated and inscribed verso: M / Elephant in Landscape / 6/3/62 / Nolan
bears inscription verso: N. 43 Sydney / (Adelaide) / Ex / Elephant & Landscape / Lilies / NO 7 / 1962

$70,000 - 90,000
Sold for $90,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 36 - 27 August 2014, Sydney

The estate of the artist
Eva Breuer Art Dealer, Sydney (label attached verso)
Private collection, Sydney


African Paintings by Sidney Nolan, Bonython Art Gallery, Adelaide, March 1964 (in conjunction with The Third Adelaide Festival of Arts), cat. 7 (as 'Elephant and Waterlilies') 
Sidney Nolan: Retrospective Exhibition. Paintings from 1937–1967, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 September – 29 October 1967; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 22 November – 17 December 1967; Western Australian Art Gallery, Perth, 9 January – 4 February 1968, cat. 111 (label attached verso) 
Sidney Nolan, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 17 January – 7 March 1976, probably cat. 34
Sidney Nolan: African Journey, Nolan Gallery, Lanyon, Australian Capital Territory, 19 November 1986 – 1 February 1987, probably cat. 8
Sidney Nolan 1971 –1992, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2 November 2007 – 3 February 2008; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 22 February – 18 May 2008; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 6 June – 31 August 2008, cat. 85


Missingham, H., 'Nolan's Animals', Art and Australia, Sydney, vol. 5, no. 2, September 1967, pp. 464–465 (illus.) 
Horton, M. (ed.), Present Day Art in Australia, Ure Smith, Sydney, 1969, p. 144 (illus.) 
Pearce, B., Sidney Nolan 1971 –1992, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2007, p. 237, cat. 85, (illus. pp. 176 (detail) and 182) 

Catalogue text

Sidney and Cynthia Nolan visited Africa in the northern autumn of 1962. 'Our days, thronged by animals and birds, slid by,' wrote Cynthia in her hypnotic account One Traveller's Africa.1 Sidney's impressions would manifest in his African Journey paintings, first exhibited in 1963 at Marlborough Galleries, London, where both Francis Bacon and Albert Tucker gave their unrestrained support for Nolan's series.2 Within the overcast light of these works, forms hover then nearly dissolve; echoing Nolan's proclamation that 'paintings should look like camouflage, that's it'.3

In the present painting, the back of the elephant absorbs the sky's grey hues while reflected in the pale waters, the silhouette retreats and reshapes amidst orange flashes of water lilies. The 'strange anthropomorphic resonance, a kind of animal existentialism'4 of Nolan's African Journey series emanates throughout the work. The animal's ancient profile emerges from this ephemeral scene as a fleeting and solitary portrait.

'There were stretches of cinebar [sic], eroded, short cliffs - the plain as it were taking a step up, then going off again behind them. Perfectly placed in front of one of these cliffs and slightly to the right of two flowering trees stood an elephant. He was splotched and lichen-like, having recently rolled or showered himself in mud and water. His great ridged backbone sloped down to end in a tail which seemed an imitation, a cord attached to a palm frond swung majestically from side to side; his ears flapped back and forth continuously. He was alone, aged and disgruntled.'5 

Nolan's 'African Journey' extended his painting techniques. Cloth-blended washes were overlaid with dashes of expressive brushwork and scraped back sections, as though Nolan was leaving his own condensed tracks and slithers across layers of time worn sediments. African landscape, 1963, in the collection of Art Gallery of New South Wales, verges on abstract expressionism; with plains and mountains articulated by sweeping, crisp strokes of vivid colours that swirl under the weight of the cloth-polished darkening sky that presses down on the scene. While subtler in palette and passages, the earlier work Elephant in Landscape, 1962 shares the suffused autumnal light and introspective, heavy-skied atmosphere of this resonant series.

1. Nolan, C., One Traveller's Africa, Methuen and Co Ltd, London, 1965, p. 26
2. Pearce, B., 'Nolan's Parallel Universe', in Pearce, B., Sidney Nolan, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2007, p. 51
3. Nolan, C., op. cit., p. 163
4. Hansen, D., 'Sidney Nolan, Elephant, 1963,' Sotheby's, Melbourne, 14 August 2012, lot 15
5. Nolan, C., op. cit., p. 110