Menzies Art Brands



The D.H. Lawrence paintings are the expression of an intimate bond between Garry Shead and the British author - famous for Lady Chatterleys Lover and Sons and Lovers. Lawrences Kangaroo, written in 1922 and set in Australia, was inspiration for a highly personal and multileveled response which became the source of an extended series of paintings that brought Shead national prominence. The Lawrence paintings, together with the Royal Suite which succeeded them, transformed Shead from a highly rated but largely unknown figure into one of the most prominent and successful artists of his generation.

The paintings have been the subject of numerous studies, examining the complex relationship between D.H. Lawrence, his story Kangaroo, and Shead himself.1 It also examines a pivotal period in Australian history. Sheads own circumstances and his relationship with his wife Judith is as a mirror of the characters in the book who in turn reflect the actual characters of Lawrence and his wife Frieda.

Lawrence and his wife were in Australia in 1922. The couple visited and stayed in the New South Wales South coastal town of Thirroul, a place where Shead had also stayed while collaborating with Brett Whiteley on a Portrait of D.H. Lawrence in the early 1970s. In his book on Shead,2 Sasha Grishin examines the various levels and depths of the links between Shead, Lawrence and Thirroul. Many of the paintings in the Lawrence series feature the distinctive figure of Lawrence himself, as the character Richard Lovat Somers of the book, set in the town with its distinctive topography and dusty streets.

The Death of Cooley depicts Lawrences character Benjamin Cooley who was probably based on the historical figure Major General (Sir) Charles Rosenthal, a War veteran who in the early 1920s turned to politics and was the leader of a secretive anti-communist militia, The King and Empire Alliance which played a part in the political ferment between the wars. The painting makes oblique reference to Lawrences political scepticism. It also points to Sheads depth of interest in the concept of Australia as a colony of Great Britain, a theme which becomes central to his ensuing Royal Suite paintings. Throughout the respective series, Shead engages with his subjects in a manner that is deeply personal, rather than based on historical fact. In the Royal Suite, the incidents, and events Shead selects are conflated with biographical events- his own and his characters- so that their dreamlike quality emphasises the poignant and often highly intimate flavour of direct experience.

Produced in the same year that Shead won the Archibald Prize, the Lawrence series paintings now occupy a central position in the development of one of Australias most successful and best loved painters.


1. The D.H. Lawrence paintings were initially exhibited at the Solander Gallery, Canberra in June 1992 as Kangaroo: D.H. Lawrence at Thirroul. Further exhibitions were held in the same year at Wollongong City Gallery, NSW, and in the following year as Lawrence Series at Michael Nagy Fine Art, Sydney; Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide; and in 1993 at Phillip Bacon Gallery, Brisbane and Lyall Burton Gallery, Melbourne before being shown at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney in December 1993. The paintings known as The Royal Suite were first exhibited in 1995.

2. Grishin, S., Garry Shead and the Erotic Muse, Craftsman House, Fine Art Publishing, Sydney, 2001

Tim Abdallah

We use our own and third party cookies to enhance your experience of our site, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing. By continuing to use our site you consent to the use of cookies. Please refer to our privacy and cookie policy.