'Hare in trap' was painted between Sidney Nolan’s iconic Wimmera landscapes and St Kilda paintings of 1940–45, and the first Ned Kelly series 1946–47. To varying degrees it reflects the growing sense of unease Nolan experienced while staying at the home of Melbourne patrons John and Sunday Reed, and the anxiety caused by his desertion from the army in 1944.
With its startling blue eye conveying fear, pain and a desperate struggle for freedom, 'Hare in trap' is powerfully autobiographical. Nolan himself suggested that the hare’s eyes relate to an incident during a car trip to northern Victoria, when the painter and his father came across a hare caught in a trap – the resultant look in his father’s blue eyes struck Nolan vividly. This beautiful, enigmatic painting, which can be read as a self-portrait, is revered universally by scholars and Nolan’s admirers as one of his finest masterpieces.
Violence and sunlight: the art of Sidney Nolan
Hare in a trap
Ripolin enamel on hardboard
90.5 x 121.5 cm board
Signature & date
Not signed. Dated l.r., "Sept 15th 46".
Purchased with funds provided by the Nelson Meers Foundation, the Margaret Hannah Olley Art Trust, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation 2007
Not on display
© The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust/Bridgeman Art Library
Shown in 8 exhibitions
Nolan '37-'47, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, London, 15 May 1962–09 Jun 1962
Sidney Nolan retrospective exhibition. Paintings from 1937 to 1967:
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 13 Sep 1967–29 Oct 1967
- National Gallery of Victoria [Swanston Street], Melbourne 22 Nov 1967–17 Dec 1967
- Western Australian Art Gallery, Perth 09 Jan 1968–04 Feb 1968
Sidney Nolan: retrospective exhibition (1970):
- Arts Centre New Metropole, Folkestone 21 Feb 1970–18 Apr 1970
- Haworth Art Gallery, Accrington 30 May 1970–21 Jun 1970
- Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle- Upon-Tyne, England 04 Jul 1970–26 Jul 1970
- Ferens Art Gallery, Hull 08 Sep 1970–27 Sep 1970
- University of East Anglia Library, Norwich 11 Oct 1970–31 Oct 1970
The Cynthia Nolan collection of paintings by Sidney Nolan, David Jones' Art Gallery, Sydney, Sydney, 07 Jul 1975–26 Jul 1975
Nolan's Nolans: a reputation reassessed, Agnew's, London, London, 11 Jun 1997–25 Jul 1997
Nolan (2002), Eva Breuer Art Dealer, Woollahra, 11 Apr 2002–30 Apr 2002
Sidney Nolan (2007-2008):
Australian modern masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales:
Referenced in 22 publications
Brian Adams, Sidney Nolan: such is life, Melbourne, 1987, 190.
Sir Kenneth Clark, Sidney Nolan, Folkestone, 1970, (illus.). cat.no. 14; Lent by V.C. Nolan
Sir Kenneth Clark, Bryan Robertson and Colin MacInnes, Sidney Nolan, London, 1961, (illus.). plate no. 3
Contemporary Art Society (New South Wales), Eighth Annual Exhibition: Contemporary Art Society (1946), Sydney, 1946. cat.no. 270; priced 60 gns
Our art critic, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Contemporary art more conservative', pg 5, Sydney, 12 Nov 1946, unknown. Review of CAS 8th annual exhibition.
Richard Ingleby., The independent, 'Visual Arts: Nolans Nolans, Agnew's Gallery, London', London, 17 Jun 1997.
Terry Ingram., The Australian financial review magazine, 'The jury's still out after Jinx fails in case about a whole lot of Nolans', Sydney, 29 Sep 2001-30 Sep 2001, unknown.
Nicholas Isherwood, Nolan's Nolans: a reputation reassessed, London, 1997, (colour illus.). cat.no. 29
Philip Jones., The Australian financial review magazine, 'England made me', Sydney, 22 Feb 2002, unknown.
Lou Klepac, Barry Pearce, Bruce James, John McDonald, Peter Pinson, Gavin Fry, Sasha Grishin AM and Deborah Hart, Australian painters of the twentieth century, Sydney, 2000, 141 (colour illus.). titled 'Hare in a trap'
Elwyn Lynn, Sidney Nolan: myth and imagery, London, 1967, 16, 17, 65 (illus.). plate no. 18
Ian MacGregor (Editor), The daily telegraph (London), 'Nolan paintings appeal dismissed', England, 11 Jun 2004.
Steve Meacham., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Stoush over Nolan to do Ned proud', Sydney, 08 Apr 2002, unknown.
Hal Missingham, Sidney Nolan. Retrospective exhibition. Paintings from 1937 to 1967, Sydney, 1967. cat.no. 31
Terence Mullaly., Daily Telegraph, 'Early work of Sidney Nolan: painter's progress to maturity', Sydney, 19 May 1962, unknown.
Edwin Mullins., Apollo, 'Academy myths and private images', London, Jul 1962.
Barry Pearce, Frances Lindsay, Lou Klepac and Edmund Capon, Sidney Nolan, Sydney, 2007, 113 (colour illus.), 231. cat.no. 25
T.G. Rosenthal, Sidney Nolan, 'Chapter one: Early work and St Kilda', pg. 19-39, London, 2002, 39 (colour illus.).
Kenneth Rowntree, Nolan '37 - '47, London, 1962. cat.no. 37
Editor Unknown, Catholic weekly, 'Art, Contemporary art society', Sydney, 28 Nov 1946, unknown.
Nolan (2002), Sydney, 2002, 13 (colour illus.). cat.no. 6
The Cythnia Nolan collection of paintings by Sidney Nolan, Sydney, 1975. cat.no. 2