Olive COTTON, Max in shadows Enlarge 1 /1


Australia 1911 – 2003

Max in shadows c.1935 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph Support: cream gloss photographic paper

Primary Insc: signed l.r., pencil "Olive Cotton" titled (and erased) l.l., pencil "Max" signed verso l.c.r., pencil "Olive Cotton" titled verso l.c., pencil "Max in shadows" inscribed verso u.l., pencil "P78"
Dimensions: printed image 14.9 h x 19.6 w cm sheet 16.7 h x 21.6 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1998
Accession No: NGA 98.166

This marvellously strange portrait of Dupain is closely related to the portrait Max, in which Cotton’s friend adopts a pose that appears athletic or gymnastic. In this picture, which in some ways prefigures Dupain’s own photographs of sun idolatry (Sunbaker 1937), Dupain’s pose seems closer to that of a pagan sun worshipper than, say, a hammer thrower or diver. One of Dupain’s favourite authors, the English writer D.H. Lawrence, often wrote of the invigorating and healing effects of the sun, with an attendant shedding of social rules and conventions. However, Cotton seems less concerned with narrative or allusion than she is with pictorial effect. The curious form of foliage from a pine tree, unexpectedly splayed across the top left-hand corner, both mirrors the body and casts a delicate pattern of vein-like lines across the torso.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra