An image of Peace after war and memories

Harold Cazneaux

(New Zealand, Australia 30 Mar 1878 – 19 Jun 1953)

Peace after war and memories

Not on display
Further information

The end of the First World War came on (the now deeply embedded) eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The impact of the war on Australians had been enormous. Cazneaux, who was to lose his son in a later conflict, had friends who had served or who had been killed. This mysterious image marks the end of the conflict and is a memento to what had been lost. Unlike the confronting photomontages of Frank Hurley, Australia’s first official war photographer, this photograph is quiet and obvert. A farmer pauses from work, like a labourer from Jean François Millet’s ‘The Angelus’. He appears to read a telegram, perhaps bringing news of peace.1 Sunbeams break through the clouds and give the scene a dramatic, almost cinematic quality, suggestive of biblical promise: ‘and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.’ This photograph probably had personal connotations for the artist beyond the war. Cazneaux had recently suffered a complete nervous and physical collapse. Although this forced him to quit his job at Freeman’s, it was eventually to bring real equilibrium into his life and make possible a great creative burst of photography throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

1. This figure has been interpreted elsewhere as a soldier-settler

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

gelatin silver photograph
26.4 x 32.4 cm image/sheet; 35.3 x 40.8 cm card
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Gift of the Cazneaux family 1975
Accession number