Drowned soldier at Anzac as Icarus

Accession Number ART91309
Collection type Art
Title Drowned soldier at Anzac as Icarus
Measurement overall: 25.4 x 30.4 cm
Object types Drawing
Maker Nolan, Sidney
Date made 18 November 1958
Copyright AWM copyright

Cliffs along coastline, with drowned body floating in the sea. The body has a red cross on torso a symbol of the military medical service. With this image Nolan has used a number of references. On the surface it represents the soldiers that drowned on the first morning at Gallipoli. It is also a reference to the photo in the Anzac Book of General Birdwood swimming at Gallipoli. In 1945 Nolan's brother Raymond drowned at Cooktown whilst waiting to be demobilized from the army after serving for almost three years in New Guinea. This is the most personal reference in this work and was often repeated in his other drowned soldiers at Gallipoli works. The most prominent reference is to Icarus, a character from Greek mythology. Icarus' father, Daedalus, attempted to escape from his exile in Crete, where he and his son were imprisoned at the hands of King Minos, the king for whom he had built the Labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur. Daedalus fashioned a pair of wings of wax and feathers for himself and his son. Before they took off from the island, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, nor too close to the sea. Overcome by the giddiness that flying lent him, Icarus soared through the sky, but came too close to the sun, which melted the wax. Icarus fell into the sea in the area which bears his name, the Icarian Sea near Icaria, an island southwest of Samos. Nolan was here alluding to the heroic audacity of the Australian soldiers at Gallipoli on that first day yet using Icarus to symbolise the lost hopes, dreams and ambitions of the young Australian men.

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