Nolan immersed himself in the myths of the Greeks, reading the Iliad and visiting Gallipoli, so close to Troy. He saw parallels which inspired the vigour of his paintings and drew on Homer, Arschylus, Euripedes as well as Dante’s 'Inferno', Rimbaud, Blake and others to compose works that hold the world, like the painting Inferno, 1966.
It is as if, through Inferno 1966, we can even hear the anguished cry, ‘Agamemnon teknetha’ (Agamemnon is dead), and see the vision as Yeats describes: the burning city of Troy in the background, as well as 'the sudden blow…the great wings beating still’ - the opening line of the Yeats poem. There too, imagery of shape suggests death, and movement is suggestive of violence, directed at women - still so relevant to our time.
There is the violence to men suggested too, with the epochal events in the Trojan war such as the death and desecration of Hector, the death of Patrocles and others, brought to us three thousand years later by Homer. The Trojan war is among acknowledged influences for this painting. And Nolan himself also suggests that the horrors of the twentieth century such as Auschwitz contribute to his vision for this series of panels, as recognised by researcher Nancy Underhill.
As evident in these panels, Nolan drew on so much of culture in his work; he was an educated man able to draw on world literature and art, who was eminently successful in interpreting through paint, pivotal moments of our history.
This nine-panel painting on loan from The Estate of Lady Nolan will show in conjunction with the Commonwealth Nolan Collection that is managed by Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG).
Sidney Nolan, Inferno, 1966
The Estate of Lady Nolan, Courtesy Mark Fraser Art Advisory Services
© The Sidney Nolan Trust. All rights reserved.
DACS/Copyright Agency, 2022
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