Girl and dog, Kiata, Wimmera c.1943; River landscape and figure c.1943 verso enamel on board 61.0 x 91.5cm (24 x 36in).
"Railway lines are never far away from the sky up here and the silos are never far from either and that is the way they have got to be painted" Sidney Nolan writing to Sunday Reed from Nhill in the Wimmera 29 March 1943, quoted in Nancy Underhill, ed., Nolan on Nolan, Viking Penguin, Melbourne, 2007 p. 123
Nolan was conscripted into the army in April 1942 and after basic training was posted to storage depots in the Wimmera wheat growing district of western Victoria for most of the period until early 1944. These two years were of enormous importance to Nolan and his art and the result, according to Richard Haese "was a period of development more dense and concentrated than at any other time in his career; the consequences were far reaching for Nolan and for the history of Australian art." Richard Haese, Sidney Nolan: the city and the plain, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1983, p.8
In the first weeks of 1943 Nolan worked on a small group of Wimmera landscapes that were stylistically distinct from, and larger in proportion than, most of his landscapes of that period . This important series includes the present work; Kiata in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Wimmera (from Mount Arapiles) in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and Wimmera landscape (landscape with train) in the collection of Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. Kiata, a companion work to the present painting has featured in both the 1987 and 2007 Nolan retrospectives, is extensively reproduced and is one of the works featured in Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008.
A significant proportion of the Wimmera landscapes were presented by Sir Sidney and Lady Nolan to the National Gallery of Victoria in 1983 and very few major works remain in private hands.
The landscape on the reverse deserves attention. It appears to be painted late in 1943 based on the similarity of its fluid colours to areas of Arabian Tree, painted in December 1943, in the collection of Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne.1 The dreamlike quality of the present work is brought to earth by the industrial chimney visible across the water, a motif that links it to a group of paintings in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria produced during and shortly after Nolan's hospitalisation in Ballarat in August for treatment to a severe injury he suffered to his left hand. The enigmatic figure with raised left arm is possibly wearing a military uniform. At the time this work was painted Nolan had become actively involved with the cultural journal Angry Penguins.
1 Thanks to Kendrah Morgan for identifying this similarity