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Australian art

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Sidney Nolan

Australia, England

22 Apr 1917 - 28 Nov 1992


Nolan’s second Ned Kelly series of 1954–56 moved away from the primitive style of the first series, embracing a more poetic, universal meaning for his image of the outlaw. The deeper sonority of colour and reinvention of previous concepts hint at a more powerful theme of transcendence, or transformation. Referring to elements from his paintings of the 1940s with roof, veranda posts and patterned wallpaper of the Glenrowan Hotel, Nolan has interposed burnt building remnants with the drought-affected landscape he had experienced more recently. Kelly's Christ-like features –no less than the vivid blue eye-slit above, and water beyond – arise from the artist’s recent Mediterranean experiences of the landscape of Italy and Greece. Kelly's crimson eyes signify death, but at the base of the composition, a kangaroo-paw flower blooms in the aftermath of drought, fire and violence.




Media category


Materials used

enamel on hardboard


121.5 x 91.0 cm

Signature & date

Signed and dated verso l.l.c. "Nolan / June / 56".
Signed l.r. "N".[monogram]. Not dated.


Purchased 1984


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Sidney Nolan

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 9 publications


Simon Plant, 1956 Melbourne, modernity and the XVI Olympiad, 'Introduction', pg. 9-23, Victoria, 1997, 16, 18, 107. NOTE: no catalogue numbers.

Lisa Sullivan, True crime: murder and misdemeanour in Australian art, ‘True Crime: murder and misdemeanour in Australian art’, pg. 5-35, Geelong, 2008, 9, 10. NOTE: General reference to Sidney Nolan and Ned Kelly.

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, 177 (colour illus.), 301.

Sidney Nolan: myth and imagery, London, 1967, 18-20, 22-23, 28-31. NOTE: General reference.

Sidney Nolan. Retrospective exhibition. Paintings from 1937 to 1967, 'Introduction', Sydney, 1967, 4, 5. NOTE: General reference.

Sidney Nolan, London, 1961, 30-32, 46-47, 110, 136, 140, 145. NOTE: General reference.

Twentieth century Australian masterworks from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Fred Williams Pilbara Series, Tokyo, 1985, 39 (colour illus.). 21

Unmasked: Sidney Nolan and Ned Kelly 1950-1990, Melbourne, 2006, 42 (colour illus.), 60. NOTE: List of works. No catalogue numbers.

Sidney Nolan, Sydney, 2007, 32, 48, 158 (colour illus., detail.), 166 (colour illus.), 236. 71