This bold composition, in which an isolated male figure has been placed in the dead centre of an empty seascape fringed with soft hills set against a pale violet sky is one of Nolan's most haunting images of the late 1940s. It is based on his visit to Fraser Island in North Queensland, which he visited in 1947, partly to investigate the accidental death of his brother Ray in Cooktown two years earlier.

Nolan read about the story of the shipwrecked Englishwoman Eliza Fraser, who became stranded amongst local Aborigines and was rescued by escaped convict David Bracewell, and painted a series pertaining to the narrative. The figure could represent Bracewell, Nolan himself, or perhaps the ghost of the artist's brother. However, the abiding existential mood of this remarkable work transcends local legend, lifting it into the realm of metaphor about the fundamental condition of individual humanity.

Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2001

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  • Title: Island
  • Creator: Sidney Nolan
  • Date Created: (1947)
  • Physical Dimensions: 77.0 x 105.0 cm board; 85.2 x 113.2 x 2.2 cm frame
  • Provenance: Judith Wright, Mar 1948-circa 1960, Brisbane/Queensland/Australia; Bryan Robertson, pre 1967, London/England; Charles Osborne, early 1960s, London/England; The Johnstone Gallery, early 1960s, Brisbane/Queensland/Australia; Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd, circa 1967, London/England; Private Collection, late 1960s, London/England, Nolan probably bought the painting back from Marlborough Fine Art, London in the late 1960s.; Agnew's, London, 2000, London/England
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 2001
  • External Link: https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/8.2001
  • Medium: Ripolin enamel on hardboard
  • Signature & Date: Signed l.r. corner, white synthetic polymer paint "N". Not dated.
  • Object Other Titles: Fraser Island
  • Artist Country: Australia, England