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Central Australia



Sidney Nolan

Australia, England

22 Apr 1917 - 28 Nov 1992


'Central Australia' is among the most majestic paintings of the series that emerged out of Nolan's visit to Central Australia during 1949. Nolan himself stated to Professor Ford, who purchased this painting from Nolan's 1950 solo exhibition at David Jones' Art Gallery, that 'in many ways it was, I think, the most complete statement I was able to make on Central Australia'. Like other paintings of this series, it arose out of Nolan's experience of flying over inland Australia, accompanying mail runs to remote settlements. Using an aerial viewpoint to increase the sense of vastness, his painting celebrates the extraordinary beauty of desert colour, form and light.

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Media category


Materials used

Ripolin enamel and oil on hardboard


122.0 x 152.5 cm board; 138.2 x 168.0 x 1.8 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r. corner, red oil "18.3.50/ Nolan".


Purchased with funds provided by the Nelson Meers Foundation 2004

Accession number


Wynne Prize

- 1950

Artist information

Sidney Nolan

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 8 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 39 publications


L.F. Fitzhardinge., Sidney Nolan: exhibition of Central Australian landscapes, Introduction, Sydney, 1950. 19; titled 'Central Australia'; price: 150 Guineas

F.L., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Prize-winning paintings in Archibald and Wynne contests', pg. 3, Sydney, 20 Jan 1951, 3. NOTE: Review of Archibald and Wynne competitions.

Ross Gibson, Here art grows on trees: Simryn Gill, 'Motility', pg. 258-267, Sydney, 2013, 266 (colour illus.), 279. 204

James Gleeson, Sun, 'Landscapes triumph for Aust. artist', pg. 19, Sydney, 31 Mar 1950, 19. NOTE: Review of 'Sidney Nolan: exhibition of Central Australian landscapes', held at David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney.

James Gleeson, Sun, 'Dobell painting is "superb"', pg. 4, Sydney, 20 Jan 1951. NOTE: Review of Archibald and Wynne competitions.

James Gleeson., Sun, 'Mediocre Archibald paintings', Sydney, 21 Jan 1950, 3. NOTE: Review of Archibald Prize.

Art Critic [Paul Haefliger]., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Archibald Prize: Avan artist wins Archibald Prize with chance work: Paintings 'Conservative'", Sydney, 21 Jan 1950. NOTE: Review of Archibald Prize.

Christopher Heathcote, Encounters with Australian modern art, 'Reconstruction culture 1945-1962', pg. 9-56, South Yarra, 2008, 20, 21 (colour illus.), 22. NOTE: Related work reproduced: titled 'Lagoon', 1950, private collection.

Peter Hill, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Mix 'n' match', pg. 18, Sydney, 15 Jan 2005-16 Jan 2005, 18. NOTE: Spectrum supplement of Saturday's edition.

Terry Ingram, The Weekend Australian financial review, 'Nolan emerges from Kelly's shadow', pg. 40, Sydney, 22 Jan 2005-23 Jan 2005, 40 (colour illus.). NOTE: 'Smart money' section.

Clare Morgan., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Gallery sells off the family silver and strikes gold', Sydney, 21 Dec 2004, (colour illus.). NOTE: Two reproductions of work: one image shows 'Central Australia' on display with Judith White, Nelson Meers, Sam Meers and Edmund Capon in front of work.

John Olsen, Art and Australia (Vol. 44, No. 2), 'Artist's choice: Nolan and the Central Australian landscape 1949-50', pg. 212, Sydney, Dec 2006-Feb 2007, 212, 213 (colour illus.).

Krystyna Pollar., The Australian, 'Nolan the nation's "greatest painter"', Sydney, 19 Dec 2004. NOTE: This article also appeared in Melbourne's 'Herald Sun' and 'Daily telegraph', Adelaide's 'Advertiser' and Brisbane's 'Courier mail', on 19 December 2004.

Sebastian Smee., The Australian, 'Gallery makes room for foundation's gift of Nolans', Sydney, 21 Dec 2004, (colour illus.). Image shows 'Central Australia' on display with Judith White, Nelson Meers, Sam Meers and Edmund Capon in front of work.

Jill Sykes, Look, 'Nolan's Australia', pg. 28-31, Sydney, Oct 2004, front cover (colour illus., detail), 7 (colour illus.), 28-29 (colour illus.), 30.

Daniel Thomas, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'The poetic themes of Sidney Nolan', pg. 15, Sydney, 09 Sep 1967, 15 (colour illus.).

Christie's: Australian paintings. Sale No. 14, Sydney, 1975, front cover (colour illus.), between 78 and 79 (colour illus.). lot no. 418

Sidney Nolan. Retrospective exhibition. Paintings from 1937 to 1967, Sydney, 1967, 20. 59

Art and Australia [vol. 5, no. 2], Sydney, Sep 1967, 455, 456 (colour illus.). NOTE: Owned by Professor Sir Edward Ford.

Archibald, Wynne, Sulman competitions for 1950, Sydney, 1951?, 12. 33 in Wynne Compeition entries

Sun, 'Gentlemanly jackeroos [sic]: wash of Archibald Prize', Sydney, 26 Jan 1950, unknown.

Nolan: Everyone feels they know Nolan, but that is far from the truth, East Melbourne, 2018. DVD documentary

Look, 'Doing justice to Nolan', pg. 8, Sydney, Mar 2005, 8 (colour illus.). NOTE: Reproduction shows Nelson Meers and Sam Meers in front of the painting.

The artist & the desert, 'Sidney Nolan', pg. 58-60, Sydney, 1981, 58-60. NOTE: Discussion of series of Central Australian landscapes and David Jones' Gallery exhibition in 1950.

Art Gallery of New South Wales: highlights from the collection, Sydney, 2008, 100-101 (colour illus.).

Sidney Nolan, Sydney, 2007, 8-9 (colour illus.), 40, 134, 147 (colour illus.), 234. 55

The new McCulloch's encyclopedia of Australian art, Carlton, 2006, 733 (colour illus.).

Age, 'AGNSW's new Nolan room', pg. 6, Melbourne, 22 Dec 2004, 6.

Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 2005, Sydney, 2005, 28.

La Fiamma, 'Sydney [sic] Nolan at the Art Gallery of NSW', pg. 18, Leichhardt, 22 Dec 2004, 18.

Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 2004, Sydney, 2004, 19-20.

Sidney Nolan: desert & drought, 'Outback', pg. 12-65, Melbourne, 2003, 21, 25, 53 (colour illus.), 148. 31

Sidney Nolan: such is life, Melbourne, 1987, 109-114. NOTE: Discussion of Nolan's trip to Central Australia and the series of landscape paintings.

Nolan: Myths, landscapes & portraits 1942-1964, Melbourne, 1987, (colour illus.). 12

Encyclopedia of Australian art (Vol.2, L-Z), Hawthorn East, 1984, between pages 848 and 849 (colour illus.).

Look, 'The art that made me: Reg Mombassa', Sydney, Nov 2015, 13.

Spring Exhibition 1979 (Joseph Brown Gallery 1979), Melbourne, Oct 1979, (colour illus.). 136

Sidney Nolan - Australia, Sydney, 1979, 13. NOTE: General reference.

Sidney Nolan, Stockholm, 1976, 20.