Peter BOOTH, Untitled Enlarge 1 /1

Peter BOOTH

Sheffield, England born 1940

  • Australia from 1958

Untitled 1999 Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Dimensions: 207.5 h x 269.5 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2001
Accession No: NGA 2001.173

In 1968, when Peter Booth’s abstract work was included in the landmark exhibition The field at the National Gallery of Victoria, few could have foretold the dramatic leap he would make to apocalyptic figuration in the following decade. The power of a number of Booth’s works of the 1970s sprang from his intense interest in the human psyche. The strength of his work comes from his inner convictions, experience and intuition. The works are never literal narratives but rather evocative and emotionally charged.

While a number of his best-known works are characterised by the dark, hot colours of black and red, Untitled is a demonstration that dark fears and insights can be expressed as powerfully in the whiteness of a bleak snow-covered landscape.

Booth began his snow paintings in 1989 while re-reading Shakespeare’s Macbeth and contemplating the tragic consequences of ambition and greed. The world in Untitled appears eerily quiet, stripped of life, as indicated by the discarded bare bones. Along with the desolate, existential feel of this space, the lush, painterly surface adds to a sense of the artist’s profound, passionate response to recurring patterns of history as well as the human condition.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

In 1968, when Peter Booth’s abstract work was included in the landmark exhibition The field at the National Gallery of Victoria, few could have foretold the dramatic leap he would make to apocalyptic figuration in the following decade. The power of a number of Booth’s works of the 1970s sprang from his intense interest in the human psyche. The strength of his work comes from his inner convictions, experience and intuition. The works are never literal narratives but rather evocative and emotionally charged.

While a number of his best-known works are characterised by the dark, hot colours of black and red, Untitled is a demonstration that dark fears and insights can be expressed as powerfully in the whiteness of a bleak snow-covered landscape.

Booth began his snow paintings in 1989 while re-reading Shakespeare’s Macbeth and contemplating the tragic consequences of ambition and greed. The world in Untitled appears eerily quiet, stripped of life, as indicated by the discarded bare bones. Along with the desolate, existential feel of this space, the lush, painterly surface adds to a sense of the artist’s profound, passionate response to recurring patterns of history as well as the human condition.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014

Untitled is one of Peter Booth’s most accomplished paintings, revealing the consistency of his underlying vision as well as his ability to find new ways of creating haunting landscapes of mind. The work is a clear demonstration that dark fears and insights can be expressed as powerfully in the whiteness of a bleak snow-covered landscape as in the descent into blackness. 

In the 1970s, Booth worked predominantly with a dark palette, first in a more abstract way and later employing a range of apocalyptic figures and environments. As Jan Minchin wrote:

In 1977 Booth’s art became dramatically figurative. Private tensions, personal trauma and an eccentric imagination were the source for strange underworlds depicting the most aberrant human behaviour. With a dreadful immediacy and a palette of violent reds and blacks, these works tell of private nightmares.1

Booth began his ‘snow paintings’ in 1989, while re-reading Shakespeare’s Macbeth and contemplating the often tragic consequences of ambition and greed. The mood of Untitled is evoked by the restricted palette of predominant white and tones of grey, and the starkness of the partially enclosed, rocky environment with light falling snow. The world appears to have become eerily quiet, stripped of life, as indicated by bare bones discarded on the ground.

It is as though we are invited to enter an archaeological site of memory, a space for reflection and contemplation, where some primeval struggle has occurred. In tandem with the desolate, existential feel of this space, the lush, expressive painterly surface adds to a sense of the artist’s profound and passionate response to recurring patterns of history and the human condition.

Deborah Hart

1Jan Minchin, ‘Peter Booth’ in From the Southern Cross, A View of World Art c.1940-1988, Australian Biennale 1988, Sydney: The Australian Broadcasting Corporation and The Biennale of Sydney, 1988, p.28.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002