Skip to content


An image of Kelly by Sidney Nolan

Sidney Nolan

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

Media category
Materials used
enamel on hardboard

121.5 x 91.0 cm

Signature & date
Signed and dated verso l.l.c. "Nolan / June / 56". Signed l.r. "N".[monogram]. Not dated.
Purchased 1984
Accession number
© The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust/Bridgeman Art Library
Not on display
Further information

Nolan’s second Ned Kelly series of 1954–56 moved away from the primitive style of the first series, embracing a more poetic, universal meaning for his image of the outlaw. The deeper sonority of colour and reinvention of previous concepts hint at a more powerful theme of transcendence, or transformation. Referring to elements from his paintings of the 1940s with roof, veranda posts and patterned wallpaper of the Glenrowan Hotel, Nolan has interposed burnt building remnants with the drought-affected landscape he had experienced more recently. Kelly's Christ-like features –no less than the vivid blue eye-slit above, and water beyond – arise from the artist’s recent Mediterranean experiences of the landscape of Italy and Greece. Kelly's crimson eyes signify death, but at the base of the composition, a kangaroo-paw flower blooms in the aftermath of drought, fire and violence.

Bibliography (9)

Sir Kenneth Clark, Bryan Robertson and Colin MacInnes, Sidney Nolan, London, 1961, 30-32, 46-47, 110, 136, 140, 145. NOTE: General reference.

Elwyn Lynn, Sidney Nolan: myth and imagery, London, 1967, 18-20, 22-23, 28-31. NOTE: General reference.

Hal Missingham, Sidney Nolan. Retrospective exhibition. Paintings from 1937 to 1967, 'Introduction', Sydney, 1967, 4, 5. NOTE: General reference.

Barry Pearce and Patrick McCaughey, Twentieth century Australian masterworks from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Fred Williams Pilbara Series, Tokyo, 1985, 39 (colour illus.). 21

Barry Pearce, Frances Lindsay, Lou Klepac and Edmund Capon, Sidney Nolan, Sydney, 2007, 32, 48, 158 (colour illus., detail.), 166 (colour illus.), 236. 71

Simon Plant, 1956 Melbourne, modernity and the XVI Olympiad, 'Introduction', pg. 9-23, Victoria, 1997, 16, 18, 107. NOTE: no catalogue numbers.

Damian Smith and Kendrah Morgan, Unmasked: Sidney Nolan and Ned Kelly 1950-1990, Melbourne, 2006, 42 (colour illus.), 60. NOTE: List of works. No catalogue numbers.

Lisa Sullivan, True crime: murder and misdemeanour in Australian art, ‘True Crime: murder and misdemeanour in Australian art’, pg. 5-35, Geelong, 2008, 9, 10. NOTE: General reference to Sidney Nolan and Ned Kelly.

Natalie Wilson, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Out of Melbourne: realisms and mythologies', pg. 163-164, Sydney, 2000, 164, 176, 177 (colour illus.), 301.

Exhibition history (5)

Twentieth century Australian masterworks from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Fred Williams Pilbara series from the collection of CRA Limited, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, 04 Oct 1985–06 Nov 1985

1956: Melbourne, Modernity and the XVI Olympiad, Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Bulleen, 17 Dec 1996–02 Mar 1997

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

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

Sidney Nolan (2007-2008):