From the outset of his career in Melbourne, Sidney Nolan stood out as a highly original artist. He painted 'Self portrait' at the age of 26, during his military service in the Wimmera district of north-west Victoria. It embodies many of his
preoccupations at the time, including his interest in the landscape as subject.
Nolan's imagery recalled the mask-like faces painted by so-called 'haptic' children in Viktor Lowenfeld's book 'The nature of creative activity', which he and other artists were reading at that time. Another source may be indicated in a letter
Nolan wrote to his patron and muse, Sunday Reed, in 1944, in which he admires Picasso's use of African cicatrisation or scarification and Maori markings in portraits. Selective distortion, exaggeration and the visual impact of pure, bold primary colours express Nolan's feelings about his surroundings; however, the image is tempered by the lyrical passages depicting the vast Wimmera landscape.
Violence and sunlight: the art of Sidney Nolan
Ripolin enamel on hessian sacking
61.0 x 52.0 cm stretcher; 72.0 x 62.9 x 5.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.l., blue ball-point pen onto dry paint film "N ["N" backwards] March 43". Signed and dated centre verso, brown crayon "... / Nolan ["N" backwards]/ March 1943". Signed and dated verso on strainer right member, pencil "12/6/43 Nolan".
Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1997
© The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust/Bridgeman Art Library
Where the work was made
Shown in 14 exhibitions
Sidney Nolan (1943), Contemporary Art Society Studio, Melbourne, 03 Aug 1943 -
Sidney Nolan Retrospective (1956), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1956–1956
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
Paintings by Sidney Nolan (1971), Skinner Galleries, Perth, Perth, 19 Jan 1971 -
Sidney Nolan: landscapes and legends a retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1987:
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 03 Jun 1987–26 Jul 1987
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 11 Aug 1987–27 Sep 1987
- Art Gallery of Western Australia, Australia 21 Oct 1987–29 Nov 1987
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 15 Dec 1987–31 Jan 1988
Nolan's Nolans: a reputation reassessed, Agnew's, London, London, 11 Jun 1997–25 Jul 1997
Inaugural permanent display, National Portrait Gallery [Old Parliament House], Canberra, 04 Mar 1999–04 Mar 2000
Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000
Nolan Heads, National Portrait Gallery [Old Parliament House], Canberra, 04 Aug 2001–30 Sep 2001
To look within: Self portraits in Australia:
- University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane 16 Apr 2004–20 Jun 2004
- National Portrait Gallery [Old Parliament House], Canberra 09 Jul 2004–19 Sep 2004
Self portrait: Renaissance to contemporary:
Sidney Nolan (2007-2008):
An expanded vision: Mary Turner collection, Orange Regional Gallery, Australia, 27 Aug 2011–30 Oct 2011
Wimmera, David Jones Art Gallery, Adelaide, Adelaide
Referenced in 52 publications
Brian Adams, Good Weekend Magazine, 'Sidney Nolan verus Australia', pg. 16-18, Sydney, Apr 1987, 17 (colour illus.).
Brian Adams, Sidney Nolan: such is life, Melbourne, 1987, 60, 61 (illus.).
Julian Agnew., Sidney Nolan: Across continents, 'Introduction', London, 2010, (colour illus.). fig.no. 1
Prue Allen, Look, 'Message from the President of the Art Gallery Society', pg. 6, Melbourne, Sep 1999, 6.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 1998, Sydney, 1998, cover (colour illus.).
Zoja Bojic., South Sydney bulletin, 'New Acquisitions: The Art Gallery of NSW', Strawberry Hills, 17 Feb 1998, unknown.
Edmund Capon, Look, 'Sidney Nolan's sense of self', pg. 14-15, Heidelberg, Mar 1998, cover (colour illus.), 3 (colour illus.), 14-15 (colour illus.). Page 3 depicts a detailed image of this painting.
Jane Clark, Sidney Nolan - landscapes and legends: a retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1987, 'War and the Wimmera', pg. 42-44, Sydney, 1987, 54 (colour illus.).
Peter Conrad., The observer, 'A voyage around myself', London, 30 Oct 2005.
Julie Cotter, Art Monthly Australia, 'How London is Appropriating 'our' Nolan', pg. 11-12, Canberra, Sep 1997, 11, 12 (illus.).
Rob Ditessa', Artist's palette, 'Icons on show', pg. 54-59, Sydney, 2000, 59 (colour illus.).
Edward Gage, The Scotsman, 'Nolan works bridge the great divide', pg. 6, Edinburgh, 26 Jun 1989, 6.
Prue Gibson, Australian art review, 'Nolan retrospective', pg. 17, New South Wales, Nov 2007-Feb 2008, 4 (colour illus.), 17 (colour illus.).
Anne Gray, Face: Australian portraits 1880-1960, 'Face: Australian portraits 1880-1960', pg. 15-41, Canberra, 2010, 36, 120 (colour illus.).
Max Harris, Art and Australia [vol. 5, no. 2], 'Nolan at St Kilda', pg. 437-442, Sydney, Sep 1967, 438 (illus.). private collection
Alistair Hicks, The Times, 'Beneath the surface', pg.16, London, 06 Sep 1988, 16 (illus.).
Terry Ingram., The Australian financial review, 'London dealer back in the dress circle', Sydney, 12 Feb 1998, unknown.
Nicholas Isherwood, Nolan's Nolans: a reputation reassessed, London, 1997, cover (colour. illus.), 9 (colour illus.). cat.no. 9
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 149 (colour illus.).
Philippa Kelly, Artlook, 'Within and without the portrait', pg. 19-21, Fyshwick, Jul 2004, 21 (colour illus.). Review of the exhibition 'Looking within: Self portraits in Australia', held at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, in 2004.
Joan Kerr, Art Monthly Australia, 'The possibilities of a National Portrait Gallery', pg.4-7, Canberra, Apr 1999, 6 (colour illus.).
Susan McCulloch-Uehlin, The Weekend Australian magazine, 'The Artists', pg. 14-15, Sydney, 28 Aug 1999, 15 (colour illus.).
Hal Missingham, Sidney Nolan. Retrospective exhibition. Paintings from 1937 to 1967, Sydney, 1967, 17. cat.no. 6
Drusilla Modjeska, Stravinsky's lunch, 'No Man's Land', pg. 177-202, Sydney, 1999, 200 (colour illus.).
Joyce Morgan, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Gallery unveils a few small wonders', pg. 5, Sydney, 06 Feb 1998, 5 (illus.).
Barry Pearce, Sidney Nolan, 'Nolan's Parallel Universe', pg. 17-66, Sydney, 2007, 10 (colour illus.), 23, 30, 31,59, 61, 90 (colour illus.), 99 (colour illus.), 230. cat.no. 12
Barry Pearce, Look: 1953-2003 celebrating 50 years, 'Presenting our own artists: how the AGS put balance into the Australian collection', pg. 42-44, Sydney, May 2003, 43 (colour illus.), 44.
the Art Gallery of NSW'. pg, The Sydney Morning Herald (metro), 'Syndey Nolan's Self Portrait 1943, one of three new acquisitions, 28., Sydney, 27 Feb 1998-05 Mar 1998, 28 (illus.).
Maria Prerauer, The Bulletin with Newsweek, 'Full house for media-shy Chaplin', pg. 73, Sydney, 17 Feb 1998, 72 (colour illus.).
Ursula Prunster, Aspects of Australian art, Sydney, 2000, (colour illus.). card no. 8: Sidney Nolan 'Self portrait' 1943
Ursula Prunster, Self portrait: Renaissance to contemporary, 'Sidney Nolan', pg. 178, London, 2005, 37, 178, 179 (colour illus.). cat.no. 47
Ursula Prunster, Look, 'Image and identity: the perennial question of Australian identity features in the Gallery's 2001 lecture series', pg. 10-11, Melbourne, Dec 2000-Jan 2001, 10 (colour illus.).
Public Programmes Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sidney Nolan retrospective, Sydney, 2007, cover (colour illus.).
Barrett Reid, Art and Australia (Vol. 25, No. 2), 'A landscape of a painter: the Sidney Nolan retrospective exhibition', pg. 179-181, Sydney, Summer 1987, 179 (colour illus.).
T.G. Rosenthal, Sidney Nolan, London, 2002, 6 (colour illus., detail), 8.
Andrew Sayers, To look within: self portraits in Australia, 'The artist's self-portrait in Australia', pg. 6-33, Brisbane, 2004, 29-30, 31 (colour illus.).
Andrew Sayers, Sidney Nolan heads, Canberra, 2001. not paginated; Checklist of works and reference to work in essay by Andrew Sayers.
Andrew Sayers (Director), National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 1999, (colour illus.).
Sebastian Smee'., The Australian, 'Gallery makes room for foundation's gift of Nolans', Sydney, 21 Dec 2004.
Sotheby's Australia, Sotheby's Sydney: Important Australian Art (31 August 2010), Melbourne, 2010, 38.
Ann Stephen, On looking at looking : the art and politics of Ian Burn, 'Modernism and the Nolan Effect', pg. 55-60, Victoria, 2006, 60 (colour illus.).
Katrina Strickland, The Australian financial review, 'Masks and muses: Relationships reveal a restless talent', pg. 44, Sydney, 28 May 2009, 44 (colour illus.). References 'Mask and Memory' documentary on Sidney Nolan, aired ABC 1 4 June 2009.
Kim Sweetman, Daily telegraph, 'The beauty of $3 million', pg. 9, Sydney, 06 Feb 1998, 9 (colour illus.).
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, Sydney, Oct 2007, 11.
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Portrait season', pg. 12, Sydney, Jul 2014, 12 (colour illus.).
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Doing justice to Nolan', pg. 8, Sydney, Mar 2005, 8.
Catherine Taylor, The Australian, 'The Arts on Friday: Nolan self-portrait in gallery coup', pg. 15, Sydney, 06 Feb 1998, 15 (colour illus.).
Matthew Westwood., HQ, 'Sidney Nolan', Darlinghurst, Sep 2000, page unknown (colour illus.).
Natalie Wilson, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Out of Melbourne: realisms and mythologies', pg. 163-164, Sydney, 2000, 164, 174 (colour illus.), 301.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales Purchase, 'Sidney Nolan', Sydney, 1998, (colour illus.).
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Face of Sidney Nolan', Sydney, 19 Aug 1967, page unknown (illus.). This image shows Sidney Nolan and Hal Missingham holding the painting at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, at the time of the Sidney Nolan Retrospective in 1967.
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 'A fake?', Sydney, 10 Feb 1998, unknown. Letter to the editor