Sir Sidney Nolan



Not on display

Sir Sidney Nolan 1917–1992
Oil paint on hardboard
Support: 914 × 1219 mm
frame: 1033 × 1340 × 101 mm
Purchased 1957

Display caption

Nolan was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1917. During the early 1940s he renounced his early abstract style and turned instead to the Australian themes which are central to his subsequent work. His principal subjects are the Australian landscape, and stories deriving from Australian history. A main source of inspiration was the legend of the nineteenth century Australian outlaw and folk hero Ned Kelly. Kelly was the leader of a gang of bank robbers whose daring exploits achieved notoriety. The metal body armour worn by the gang captured popular imagination. This painting relates to the Siege of Glenrowan in 1880, a gunbattle between the gang and police in which Kelly was finally captured.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

T00150 GLENROWAN 1956–7

Inscr. ‘Nolan 6-4-57’ b.l. (twice) and, on back, ‘May 1956 N Also April 6th 1957’.
Ripolin on hardboard, 36×48 (91·5×122).
Purchased from the artist (Knapping Fund and Grant-in-Aid) 1957.
Exh: Whitechapel Art Gallery, June–July 1957 (72).
Lit: Clark, MacInnes and Robertson, 1961, pp.22–31, repr. pl.62.
Repr: Tate Gallery Report 1957–8 , 1958; Viewpoint, No.1, 1962, p.9.

One of the many paintings on the theme of Ned Kelly, most of which were executed in two series, at Melbourne 1945–7 and in Europe 1954–5; this example was painted in London 1956–7. Ned Kelly was a Robin Hood-like outlaw who, with three companions, defied the police and army of Victoria for two years until he was finally caught and executed at the age of twenty-five in 1880. The final siege of the four men occurred in the hotel at Glenrowan; Ned Kelly escaped but returned to find out the fate of his companions and was captured. Ned Kelly is shown in his armour and helmet made out of beaten ploughshares.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II


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