Lot 58
  • 58

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri circa 1932-2002 POSSUM DREAMING AT NAPPERBY

100,000 - 150,000 AUD
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  • Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri
  • bears Papunya Tula Artists catalogue number CP791224 on the reverse and artist's name, title and date on an Art Gallery of South Australia Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri retrospective tour label on the reverse of the protective panel
  • synthetic polymer paint on linen

  • 183 BY 152.5CM


Painted in 1979
Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs
Mr Tim and Dr Vivien Johnson
The Estates of Professor Peter and Mrs Jane Johnson


The Painted Dream: Contemporary Aboriginal paintings from the Tim and Vivien Johnson Collection, Auckland City Art Gallery, Auckland, , and at the Te Whare Taonga o Aotearoa National Art Gallery and Museum, Wellington, New Zealand, 1991
Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 31 October 2003 - 26 January 2004; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 24 March - 3 May 2004; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 14 May - 11 July 2004; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 7 August - 24 October 2004


Tim Johnson and Vivien Johnson, The Painted Dream: Contemporary Aboriginal paintings from the Tim and Vivien Johnson Collection, Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland City Art Gallery, 1991
Vivien Johnson, The Art of Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Sydney: Gordon and Breach Arts International, 1994, p. 77, pl. 23
Vivien Johnson, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, 2003, p. 121 and p. 237, pl. 24


This painting bears no visible signs of repairs or restoration and is in good and stable condition overall.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Cf. For three other major works from the period in which this painting was created see Two Men Fighting, 1978, and Dreamings of Napperby Station, 1980, the latter in the Holmes à Court Collection in Johnson 1994, p. 76, pl. 22, and p. 90, pl. 30, and in Johnson 2003, p. 119 and p. 125 respectively; and Possum Dreaming (Yalkuti), 1981, also in the Holmes à Court Collection in Johnson 1994, p. 88, pl. 28. See also Yuutjutiyungu, 1979, in Johnson 1994, pp. 70-71, pl. 20 and Johnson 2003, pp. 108-109, (illus.)
From October 1976 to July 1979 Clifford Possum created his most celebrated series of large canvases: five monumental, innovative canvases that mapped out the artist's major patrilineally inherited Dreamings in such a way as to integrate the sacred diagrams of ceremonial ground paintings and the topographical conventions of European maps. The series commenced with Warlugulong, 1976, now in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and ended with Yuutjutiyungu, 1979, in the Kelton Foundation Collection in Los Angeles. The series includes Warlugulong, 1977, now in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia. This group of paintings is of such significance in the artist's corpus that the main authority on his work, Vivien Johnson, dubbed the series 'The Title Deeds' (V. Johnson, 1994, p. 49, and 2003, p. 86).

Possum Dreaming at Napperby, 1979, was the first painting created by Clifford Possum after he had completed the series with Yuutjutiyungu, 1979. Possum Dreaming reveals a shift in direction for the artist; the background dotting, according to Johnson, has been 'scaled up, and is applied with a virtuosity ... heralding an era in which immaculate craftsmanship would become one of the hallmarks of Clifford Possum's style' (Johnson 2003, p. 120).

The painting describes the travels of a Possum ancestor, Tjukunypa, across a landscape marked by areas of dry bushes (the sections outlined in pink). Tjukunypa's paw prints are bisected by meandering lines which are the marks left by his dragging trail. Tjukunypa travelled both over and beneath the surface of the earth. Clifford Possum's innovative and experimental approach to paintings is evident again here: the partially obscured possum prints in the central column of tracks indicate his underground journey, while the sets of concentric circles represent the places where Tjukunypa entered the ground and re-emerged from it.