Miners preparing for a shot, State Coal Mine Wonthaggi
Originally known as a pencil portraitist and press cartoonist,
Counihan, who trained at the National Gallery School in Melbourne,
worked first in Victoria, then in New Zealand for a short time at
the outbreak of the Second World War. Towards the end of the 40s
the artist moved from Melbourne to the United Kingdom before
embarking on travels in Europe.
One of Australia's best known social realist artists, and a
committed member of the Communist Party, Counhihan felt strongly
that art had a social purpose and could be used to expose social
inequalities. Before painting this work Counihan spent time in a
coal mine where he made sketches by lamplight at the coalface as he
believed that if he wanted to convey accurately the conditions
faced by the miners, he needed to experience them first.