An image of Greek burial

Justin O'Brien

(Australia, Italy 02 Aug 1917 – 17 Jan 1996)

Greek burial

Other titles:
The Greek Burial
Not on display
Further information

Having witnessed the Great Famine in German occupied Greece – which resulted in the death of over 300 000 people – one memory remained vivid for O'Brien. Officers in the Kokkinia prison camp had gained permission to attend to Allied war graves in a nearby cemetery. As they approached, O'Brien noticed a woman towing a billycart containing the dead body of her baby. Corpses were stacked in piles around the graveyard.

Greek burial is one of the earliest works by the artist through which he recounts this incident, exemplifying his decision that he was only able to address such an event symbolically. Greek Orthodox priests wearing distinctive, chimney shaped 'kamelavkion' move with surreal, hieratic deliberation, burying the dead in shallow graves across the stony ground.

(circa 1947)
oil on canvas on hardboard
88.8 x 65.0 cm board; 105.0 x 82.5 x 3.3 cm frame
Signature & date

Signed u.r. corner, dark blue oil "O'BRIEN". Not dated.

Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 2002
Accession number
© Estate of Justin O'Brien