Strasser’s wild portrait is of prima ballerina Sally Gilmour in her role in the ballet Lady into Fox
, first performed in 1939. The Ballet Rambert production, based on a novel by David Garnett, starred Gilmour as a happily-married woman who inexplicably transforms into a fox, to the distress of her husband. Their predicament, although amusing at first, takes a dark turn when vulpine viciousness starts to overcome the wife’s normally sweet disposition. When Gilmour led the Ballet Rambert on its triumphant tour of Australia 1947-1949, Strasser painted this picture of her. In the dark of the night, with her hair pricked up like ears, and surrounded by poisonous foxgloves, Gilmour seems fused to her fiery-eyed fox-fur.
After Strasser and his wife were forced from their Bali home by the advancing Japanese during the war, they eventually arrived in Sydney in 1946. There, the couple moved into a boarding house called ‘Merioola’, which housed a number of artists, designers and dancers known as the ‘Merioola Group’.