Olive COTTON, The sleeper Enlarge 1 /1


Australia 1911 – 2003

The sleeper 1939 Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph
Primary Insc: Signed l.r. print border, pencil, "Olive Cotton". Dated l.l. print border, pencil, "...'39". Titled l.l. print border, pencil, "The sleeper".

Dimensions: printed image 29.2 h x 25.0 w cm sheet 38.0 h x 32.4 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1987
Accession No: NGA 87.1766

More detail

The sleeper 1939, Olive Cotton's graceful study of her friend Olga Sharp resting while on a bush picnic, made around the same time as Max Dupain's Sunbaker, presents a different take upon the enjoyment of life in Australia. The woman is relaxed, nestled within the environment. The mood is one of secluded reverie.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

The woman shown sleeping during a bush picnic in this magical image is Cotton’s friend, the photographer and art director Olga Sharp. The photograph engages one of Cotton’s favourite subjects, the feeling of being in and absorbed by nature. Like other pictures by her – such as Orchestration in lightThe sleeper makes use of a proscenium structure to draw attention to the effects of light in nature. While no doubt fascinated by the figure of her friend in repose, Cotton is as much interested, as she later recalled, in the visual effect of the ‘tall grass behind her’, framed by the silhouetted line made by vegetation and ‘brilliant with sunshine’.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra