Max Dupain – 'Sunbaker'

Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker' (1937) is probably Australia's best-known photographic artwork.

The sunbaker is completely relaxed and at one with the landscape. He lies with his back exposed to the sun, seawater and sweat sparkling on his skin. Dupain used a low-angle shot, which transforms the simple shapes of the man's oval head and triangular torso into a mountain-like outcrop set against the horizon.

The image was inspired by the work of European modernist photographers, who were interested more in exploring abstract form than in making descriptive photographs. In its classical simplicity it replaced contemporary clichés of athletic masculinity.

Although it was taken many years after World War I, memories of bronzed Anzacs were still strong enough to give this image a nationalist resonance. Following the depletions of wartime, sunlight had a special meaning for its power to promote physical and spiritual wellbeing. 

'Sunbaker' was taken while Dupain was on holiday at Culburra, on the New South Wales South Coast, at a time of popular optimism before World War II.