#NOLAN100 - NO.12

HARE IN TRAP, 1946

Nicholas Usherwood

"Painted in 1946, Hare in A Trap was one of a significant group of paintings that Nolan kept by him throughout his life, a fact that, in itself, provides a clue to the very particular place this enigmatic and hauntingly beautiful work seems to occupy in his art. Nolan always quietly insisted that his work was essentially autobiographical in character but he only ever left the barest of clues as to what he meant by this, leaving it up to writers and critics to speculate. In this case it was Nolan's observation that the blue eyes of the hare were the eyes of his father; his relationship with his tram-driver father, always uneasy, had been further severely strained by his desertion from the army two years earlier. Other elements in any psychological/autobiographical reading that suggest themselves here were the accidental death of his brother Raymond on naval service the year before while a visit to Kelly Country earlier in the year may well have stirred memories of his father's father who had been involved in the police search for Kelly and revived childhood memories of visits to family in North Victoria. These visits had, of course, been made in preparation for the first, iconic 'Ned Kelly' series, also in full flow in 1946, the landscape, with its scrubby bush and scattered trees, being stylistically identical to those of the early Kelly paintings. Close in feeling to it as well are those paintings exploring his childhood memories of St Kilda Beach and Luna Park Funfair of a few months earlier in which he also seemed to be attempting some urgent resolution of a carefree past and his present, turbulent circumstances. But some things here are, for me at least, beyond such speculation, above all those ten, potent, red and white spots underneath the hare's legs – blood and fur -  a reference to Freud and Oedipus (literally 'swollen foot'), or simply an essential compositional device?"


Nicholas Usherwood is a curator, art critic and writer on contemporary art and culture. He has written for publications including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph, Arts Reviewand Resurgence and is currently Features Editor of Galleries Magazine.

Sidney Nolan, Hare in Trap, 1946, Ripolin enamel on hardboard, 90.5 x 121.5 cm board, Purchased with funds provided by the Nelson Meers Foundation, the Margaret Hannah Olley Art Trust, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation 2007, © The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust/Bridgeman Art Library          

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