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Australian art

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The camp



Sidney Nolan

Australia, England

22 Apr 1917 - 28 Nov 1992


Nolan is one of Australia's most respected and internationally celebrated painters having travelled and exhibited extensively throughout the world during his long career. Largely self-taught by way of repeated visits to the State Library and Gino Nibbi's legendary book store in Melbourne, Nolan discovered the art of Miró, Klee and Picasso and immersed himself in the writings of Blake, Rimbaud, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and DH Lawrence.

Ned Kelly was an Australian folk hero many decades before Nolan took up his cause. Nolan's fascination with Kelly developed from stories told by his grandfather, a trooper who had hunted down the fugitive bushranger in 1880. 'The camp' is one of the original, seminal series of works depicting the life and deeds of this antipodean bandit, which Nolan painted at Sunday and John Reed's house 'Heide', in 1946-47.

'The camp' refers to the moment in the story of Kelly's exploits, just before his gang's ambush at Stringybark Creek in rural Victoria, where three policemen sent to apprehend the outlaws were killed. The bold division of the painting into two halves creates a powerful psychological tension: the calm landscape to the right is juxtaposed against an electric-blue area of paint, from which emerges the square, black, silhouetted figure of Kelly, wearing his beaten-iron armour and helmet.




Media category


Materials used

Ripolin enamel and alkyd on hardboard


89.7 x 121.5 cm board; 111.6 x 142.2 x 6.5 cm frame

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 1978

Accession number


Artist information

Sidney Nolan

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 11 publications


Elizabeth Fortesque, Daily telegraph, 'Master strokes', pg. 124, Sydney, 22 Jul 2000, 124 (colour illus.). Review of 'Australian Icons' exhibition.

Jacaranda Wiley Ltd, Jacaranda Studies of Society and Environment, Queensland, 1996, cover.

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 151 (colour illus.).

Terence Maloon and Ursula Prunster, Art & the West, 'Crisis and renewal: World War II', Sydney, 1987, (colour illus.). AUS 7 card.

Barry Pearce, Three years on: a selection of acquisitions 1978-1981, 'Australian Art', pg. 5-26, Sydney, 1981, 18, 19 (illus.). 27

Ursula Prunster, Aspects of Australian art, Sydney, 2000, (illus.). card no. 8: Sidney Nolan 'Self portrait' 1943

Andrew Sayers, The Ned Kelly Paintings: Nolan at Heide 1946-47, Melbourne, 1997, 51 (colour illus.), 77 (illus.). 38

Gerry Simpson, Great powers and outlaw states: unequal sovereigns in the International Legal Order, Cambridge, 2004, front cover (colour illus., detail).

Judith White, Look, 'Such is life', pg. 10, Melbourne, Oct 2000, 10 (colour illus.). Article about a visit to the AGS by Peter Carey and the release of his new book 'True history of the Kelly Gang'.

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 (colour illus.), 301.

Editor Unknown (Editor), Australian artist, 'Australian Icons at the Art Gallery of New South Wales', pg, 4-5, Chatswood, Aug 2000, 4 (colour illus.).