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Australian art

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Policeman floating in the river



Sidney Nolan

Australia, England

22 Apr 1917 - 28 Nov 1992


In his attempt to find a contemporary relevance for the bushranger Ned Kelly, Nolan reworked the image of the defiant, armour-clad outlaw set against the Australian bush time and again.

Shortly after painting the series of Antarctic subjects in 1964, he produced over twenty-five 'River/Kelly' paintings, considered by the artist as preparation for the pinnacle of his career - 'Riverbend' - a work consisting of nine panels now in the Australian National Library, Canberra.

Here the protagonist of the narrative becomes reduced in scale, dwarfed by the immensity of the tumultuous cascade of water and undergrowth. The real subject becomes the river landscape, which Nolan once explained to be a combination of the Goulburn River at Shepparton, where he had spent holidays as a child, and the Murray; areas he related strongly to his father.

Great slashing brushstrokes contrast with areas of intense scraping back with both palette knife, fingers and paint brush handle, suggesting the actual texture of tree trunks, lush foliage and cascading water.

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000




Media category


Materials used

oil on hardboard


152.0 x 122.0 cm board; 170.0 x 139.6 x 4.5 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed l.r., grey oil "N-".
Signed and dated bot.c. verso [upside down], black fibre-tipped pen "27 oct 1964/ Nolan".
Signed and dated u.l. verso, pink chalk ".../ 1964/ Nolan".


Purchased with funds provided by Bond Street City Freeholds Ltd 1987


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Sidney Nolan

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


John Saxby (Editor), Look, 'The art that made me: Reg Mombassa', Sydney, Nov 2015, 13.

Damian Smith and Kendrah Morgan, Unmasked: Sidney Nolan and Ned Kelly 1950-1990, Melbourne, 2006, 61. List of works. No catalogue numbers.

Nick Waterlow (Curator), Larrikins in London: an Australian presence in 1960s London, 'Sidney Nolan', pg 86-87, Sydney, 2003, 86 (colour illus.), 112.