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An image of First-class marksman by Sidney Nolan

Sidney Nolan

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

First-class marksman
Other titles:
First-class marksmen
The Marksman
Tireur de première classe
Alternative title:
Tiratore di classe Tireur de premiere classe
Media category
Materials used
Ripolin enamel on hardboard

90.2 x 121.2 cm board

Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. corner, pencil "12.12.46/ N.".
Purchased with funds provided by the Gleeson O'Keefe Foundation 2010
Accession number
© The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust/ Bridgeman Art Library
20th & 21st c Australian art
Further information

'First-class marksman' shows the isolated figure of Ned Kelly in the solid black armour that is Nolan's most inventive pictorial device, its flat abstracted shape incongruously placed against a landscape of lyrical delicacy. The title refers to an incident which took place in Victoria’s Wombat Ranges, when Kelly and his gang were practising their marksmanship, firing hundreds of rounds at surrounding trees from a bullet-proof hide-out.

Nolan made many paintings of the outlaw Kelly between 1946 and 1947 at Heide, home of patrons John and Sunday Reed. This was the only panel in the series not painted on the Heide dining table, but at the house of Russian expatriate artist Danila Vassilieff at Warrandyte, where Nolan was caretaker for two months. Its informal swift and transparent rendering is a precursor to subsequent series based on outback Queensland, such as 'Pretty Polly mine 1948'.

Bibliography (47)

Michelle Andringa, Look, 'Spreading the art: Speeding collection images across the world', pg. 12-13, Newtown, Aug 2010, 12.

Murray Bail, Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly: the Ned Kelly paintings in the National Gallery of Australia, 'Ned Kelly, Artist', pg. 1-2, Canberra, 2002, 11, 16-19, 30, 31 (colour illus.), 75.

Louise Bellamy.,, 'Brett Whiteley's oil threatens record', Sydney, n.pag. (colour illus.). viewed 20.10.2013,

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Michaela Boland and James Madden., The Weekend Australian, 'Sidney Nolan's marksman hits a record price', Canberra, 26 Mar 2010.

Michaela Boland, The Weekend Australian, 'Another Kelly replaces picture that went north', pg. 5, Canberra, 01 May 2010-02 May 2010, 5 (colour illus.).

Michaela Boland, The Weekend Australian, 'The refined politics of fine arts', pg. 12, Canberra, 27 Nov 2010-28 Nov 2010, 12.

H. Brown, The Weekend Australian, 'Nolan's journey to paradise', pg. 8-24, Surry Hills, 21 Oct 1989-22 Oct 1989, 23.

Professor Joseph Burke, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Art in Australia', pg. 10, Sydney, 04 Feb 1954, 10. General reference

Wally Caruana and Jane Clark, The Cambridge companion to Australian Art, 'Buying and selling Australian art: a brief historical survey', pg. 290-306, Port Melbourne, 2011, 290, 306.

Jean Cassou, Un groupe d'oeuvres du peintree Australien Sidney Nolan, Paris, 1949. 6; titled 'Tireur de premiere classe'

Jean Cassou, Una serie di quadri ad olio del pittore australiano Sidney Nolan gentilmente concessi da Mrs.e Mr. John Reed di Melbourne, Rome, 1950. 6; titled 'Tiratore di classe'

Jane Clark, Sidney Nolan - landscapes and legends: a retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1987, Sydney, 1987, front cover (colour illus., detail), 76, 77 (colour illus.).

Sir Kenneth Clark and Artur Lundkvist, Sidney Nolan, Stockholm, 1976. 12; titled 'The marksman'

Justin Coomber, Daily telegraph mirror, 'The larrikin genius dies', pg. 4-5, Surry Hills, 30 Nov 1992, 4, 5 (illus.).

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Deutscher Fine Art (Melbourne), Great Australian paintings from Melbourne Private Collections: Royal Children's Hospital Foundation Fundraiser Exhibition, Melbourne, 1997, 45 (illus.). 24

Adam Fulton., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Record $5.4m for Nolan', Sydney, 26 Mar 2010, (colour illus.).

W. Krüger., Art international [vol. 20, nos. 4-5], 'Sidney Nolan in Moderna Museet Stockholm', Switzerland, Apr 1976-May 1976, (illus.).

Elwyn Lynn, Sidney Nolan: myth and imagery, London, 1967, 9.

Sandra McGrath, The Bulletin, 'Melbourne gives an Olympian salute to Nolan', pg. 78, Sydney, 16 Jun 1987, 78 (colour illus.).

Robert Melville, Ned Kelly: 27 paintings by Sidney Nolan, 'Ned Kelly', pg. 1-5, London, 1964, 10 (colour illus.), 46. plate no. 6

Menzies Art Brands Pty Ltd [Sydney], Menzies, Sydney: Australian, Aboriginal & International Fine Art 25 March 2010, Sydney, 2010, front cover (colour illus.), 88, 89 (colour illus.), 90, 91 (colour illus.), 94. lot no. 51; titled 'First-Class Marksman

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Helen Rayment, Australian modernism: the complexity and the diversity, North Caulfield, 1992, 5, 23 (colour illus.). 28

Warwick Reeder, Heide I: A guide book, Bulleen, 2002, 10.

Warwick Reeder, The Ned Kelly Paintings: Nolan at Heide 1946-47, 'Nolan at Heide', pg. 9-15, Melbourne, 1997, 14, 25, 30, 49 (colour illus.), 77 (illus.). 36

John Reed, The 'Kelly' paintings of Sidney Nolan 1946-47, Melbourne, Apr 1948. 6; titled 'First-class marksman'

John Reed, The 'Kelly' paintings of Sidney Nolan 1946-47, Melbourne, Jun 1956. 6; titled 'First-class marksmen'

T.G. Rosenthal, Sidney Nolan, 'Ned Kelly', pg. 59-99, London, 2002, 62, 68 (colour illus.). Reproduced by kind permission of The Vizard Foundation, Melbourne

Sarah Saunders (Editor), 50 something: National Seniors Association, 'Top Shelf', pg. 50, Brisbane, Jun 2010-Jul 2010, 50 (colour illus.).

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Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, Newtown, Sep 2010, 6 (colour illus.). Menzies Auctioneers advertisement

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Exhibition history (11)

The 'Kelly' paintings of Sidney Nolan 1946-1947 (1948), Velasquez Gallery, Melbourne, Apr 1948 -

Un groupe d'oeuvres du peintre Australien Sidney Nolan, Dec 1949–Unknown

Sidney Nolan: paintings, drawings and theatre design (1983), Grosvenor Museum, Chester, Chester, 22 Jul 1983–18 Sep 1983

Sidney Nolan: landscapes and legends a retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1987:

Sotheby's Melbourne: Fine Australian paintings - 14th August 1989, Sotheby's Gallery Melbourne, Armadale, Aug 1989 -

Sidney Nolan: The Ned Kelly story (1994), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 19 Apr 1994–04 Sep 1994

Great Australian paintings from Melbourne Private Collections: Royal Children's Hospital Foundation Fundraiser Exhibition (1997), Deutscher Fine Art (Melbourne), Malvern, 30 May 1997–15 Jun 1997

Common Wealth: A tribute to federation (2001-2002), NGV on Russell, Melbourne, 11 Apr 2001–19 Jan 2002

Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly Series (New Zealand Arts Festival) 2002, City Gallery Wellington, Wellington, 23 Feb 2002–19 May 2002

Sidney Nolan (2007-2008):

Australian Collection Focus: some recent acquisitions: - Nolan, Boyd, Fairweather, Rees (2010), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 16 Oct 2010–09 Jan 2011