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An image of Policeman floating in the river by Sidney Nolan

Sidney Nolan

(Australia, England 22 Apr 1917 – 28 Nov 1992)

Policeman floating in the river
Media category
Materials used
oil on hardboard

152.0 x 122.0 cm board; 170.0 x 139.6 x 4.5 cm frame

Signature & date
Signed and dated bot.c. verso [upside down], black fibre-tipped pen "27 oct 1964/ Nolan". Signed and dated u.l. verso, pink chalk ".../ 1964/ Nolan". Signed l.r., grey oil "N-".
Purchased with funds provided by Bond Street City Freeholds Ltd 1987
Accession number
© The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust/Bridgeman Art Library
Not on display
Further information

In his attempt to find a contemporary relevance for the bushranger Ned Kelly, Nolan reworked the image of the defiant, armour-clad outlaw set against the Australian bush time and again.

Shortly after painting the series of Antarctic subjects in 1964, he produced over twenty-five 'River/Kelly' paintings, considered by the artist as preparation for the pinnacle of his career - 'Riverbend' - a work consisting of nine panels now in the Australian National Library, Canberra.

Here the protagonist of the narrative becomes reduced in scale, dwarfed by the immensity of the tumultuous cascade of water and undergrowth. The real subject becomes the river landscape, which Nolan once explained to be a combination of the Goulburn River at Shepparton, where he had spent holidays as a child, and the Murray; areas he related strongly to his father.

Great slashing brushstrokes contrast with areas of intense scraping back with both palette knife, fingers and paint brush handle, suggesting the actual texture of tree trunks, lush foliage and cascading water.

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000

Bibliography (2)

Damian Smith and Kendrah Morgan, Unmasked: Sidney Nolan and Ned Kelly 1950-1990, Melbourne, 2006, 61. List of works. No catalogue numbers.

Nick Waterlow (Curator), Larrikins in London: an Australian presence in 1960s London, 'Sidney Nolan', pg 86-87, Sydney, 2003, 86 (colour illus.), 112.

Exhibition history (3)

Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000

Larrikins in London: an Australian presence in 1960s London, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Paddington, 04 Sep 2003–11 Oct 2003

Unmasked: Nolan and Kelly 1950-90, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, 11 Nov 2006–04 Mar 2007